US investor George Soros said there was a “mortal danger” of China’s use of artificial intelligence (AI) to repress its citizens under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), whom he called the most dangerous opponent of democracies.
“The instruments of control developed by artificial intelligence give an inherent advantage of totalitarian regimes over open societies,” the 88-year-old said on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “China is not the only authoritarian regime in the world, but it’s undoubtedly the wealthiest, strongest and most developed in machine learning and artificial intelligence.”
The former hedge fund manager said that Beijing is developing a centralized database that would use algorithms to determine whether a person poses a threat to China’s one-party system.
While China’s so-called social credit system is not yet fully operational, “it will subordinate the fate of the individual to the interests of the one-party state in ways unprecedented in history,” Soros said.
“I find the social credit system frightening and abhorrent,” he said.
Soros drew a distinction between Xi and Chinese, saying the latter remain a main source of hope.
At the Davos conference last year, Soros criticized social-media giants Facebook Inc and Google. He compared them to gambling companies that foster addiction among users and said that they exploit the data they control.
Soros on Thursday reiterated the need to regulate technology firms while authoritarian regimes declare theirs as “national champions.”
“That’s what has enabled some Chinese state-owned companies to catch up with and even surpass the multinational giants,” he said.
In his speech, Soros touched on subjects including his childhood, running a hedge fund and his efforts to protect human rights.
He spoke at length about China, criticizing Xi and the nation’s Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure project as self-serving.
He also called Russian President Vladimir Putin another enemy of democracy.
“I’ve been concentrating on China, but open societies have many more enemies, Putin’s Russia foremost among them,” Soros said.
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