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[Future Report] Global Convergence of IT

Global Challenge 6: How can global information & communications technologies along with machine intelligence, big data, and cloud computing work for everyone?

(c) 2021 The Millennium Project

Brief Overview

Elon Musk’s Starlink is completing global access to Internet with the most advanced broadbad system via thousands of micro-satellites launched by SpaceX. The internet is expect to grow to 5.3 billion users by 2023. About two-thirds of the people in the world have a mobile phone; over half have smart phones. The continued development and proliferation of smart phone apps are putting state-of-the-art artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) systems in the palm of many hands around the world. The race is on to complete the global nervous system of civilization and make supercomputing power available to everyone.

Another race is to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI), which might never get developed, but some think it is possible in 10 to 15 years. If so, its impact will be far beyond ANI. However, if we don’t get the initial conditions “right” for AGI, it could evolve into an artificial super intelligence (ASI) beyond our awareness that science fiction has warned about. Investments in AGI are forecast to reach $50 billion by 2023.The human brain projects of U.S., EU, China, and other countries, plus corporate ANI and AGI research, should lead to augmented individual human and collective intelligence. China has declared its goal of being the world’s AI leader by 2030. President Putin of Russia said whoever leads in AI rules the world. International and national AI strategies are being created.

Internet 3.0 promises to integrate immersive augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) metaverse with decentralized user-centric systems like blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO), a variety of artificial narrow intelligences (from autonomous agents to natural langue processing), and semantic web technologies. Such decentralized systems could make enforcement of regulations against disinformation and information warfare more difficult to enforce. How well governments develop and coordinate Internet security technology and regulations may determine the future quality of cyberspace.

Cybercrime increased 600% during the Covid pandemic. Ransomware accounts for 70% of all malware payloads. Global cost of cybercrime is estimated to grow the $10.5 trillion annually be 2025. With the evolution of the Internet of Things, wearable computers, autonomous vehicles, and brain-computer interfaces, cyber security will become increasingly important. Low-cost computers are replacing high-cost weapons as an instrument of power in asymmetrical cyber and information warfare. Information security should address a wide and diverse range of “enemies”—from the “geek in the back room” to criminal organizations and governments. At least 21 countries shutdown the internet 50 times between January and May of 2021. During 2019, 25 countries shut down the Internet 213 times, up from 196 times in 2018, mostly in Asia and Africa.

As of 2017, more advertising money was spent on Internet than on television, and half of all internet traffic is via mobile phones. Rapidly increasing video, AR/VR, and IoT use raises concerns about anticipating and meeting future bandwidth demands for an internet infrastructure this is not designed for these applications, but whose reliability has become strategically vital for much of civilization. More than a billion hours are viewed each day on YouTube.

Blockchain is being explored as a new approach to IoT security, as is quantum entanglement. Quantum cryptography is an emerging security technology in which two parties can generate shared, secret cryptographic material between ground stations or between Earth and satellite (as demonstrated in June 2017 by China). Yet quantum computers could be used to defeat some security systems as well. All this is leading one day to a global-scale quantum Internet. In December 2020 China announced a quantum computer calculation in 200 seconds at room temperature that a supercomputer would take 2.5 billion years to complete. IBM’s 127 qubit chip is available for commercial use and IBM has produced a 2-nanometer chip with 50 billion transistors on the size of a fingernail increasing performance and reducing energy demand. IBM announced it will have a 1,000-cubit chip in 2023 and 1-million-cubit chip by 2030 (10 qubits allows for 1,000 calculations at the same time, 30 qubits allows for a billion calculations at the same time).

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution evolves, all elements of a business will become connected with artificial narrow intelligence; companies will increasingly become collective intelligence systems. Financial services and other kinds of businesses could just become software. The three kinds of artificial intelligence are artificial narrow, single-purpose intelligence (what we have today); artificial general intelligence, adaptable to multiple purposes re-writing its own code (which might not be possible, but some expect it by 2030); and artificial super intelligence, general intelligence that sets its own goals independent of humans (what science fiction warns about). Some unemployment impacts of narrow AI are being seen today, but if artificial general intelligence can be created, then the big impacts on unemployment, economics, and culture will much greater. Facebook (now Meta) closed down AI bots that created their own language that humans could not understand, and Google’s AutoML can create new AI better and faster than humans, using layers of neural networks. Europol has created NoMoreRensom to decrypt and unlock computers under ransom attacks.

Who owns the intellectual property of AI produced by AI with participation of many inputs from humans and sensors around the world? How can standards, certification, and testing keep up with AI when humans will no longer know completely how it works? Meanwhile, tele-everything continues to grow. Over 700 universities offered 6,850 tele-education MOOCs to 58 million students during 2016. Global telemedicine was valued at approximately $18.20 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately $38 billion by 2022.

Actions to Address Global Challenge 6:

  • Begin to design global governance for the initial conditions and performance of artificial general intelligence (AGI).

  • Make Internet access a right of citizenship, as Finland did in 2010.

  • Support Startlink’s plan to provide universal Internet access to the world, regardless of location.

  • Establish international agreements on IoT security standards and patchability.

  • Explore elements for a global agreement on use and future development of machine learning and use of artificial intelligence.

  • Assess global governance models for the transition from artificial narrow intelligence to artificial general intelligence.

  • Create public global collective intelligence systems for water, energy, food, S&T, etc. and connect them in a global system.

  • Create low-cost, hand-held computers with direct satellite access for low-income regions to access educational software and telephony, with elementary literacy as a first priority.

  • Train everyone in their roles in cyber-security, like how to use Europol’s NoMoreRensom to decrypt and unlock computers under ransom attack.

  • Invent synergies between government cyber-security personnel and independent hackers for a safer Internet.

  • Promote tele-nations and tele-citizens: people from poorer nations who live and work in richer nations, who help develop their original countries via volunteer telecommuting.

Source: World Bank indicators and Internetworldstats, with Millennium Project compilation and forecast in 2017 State of the Future Index.

Regional Considerations

Africa: Over 300 million Africans use the Internet, opening the door to tele-education, tele-medicine, and eventually tele-everything else. Africans overseas will be able to help the development back home more easily – matching African brains overseas with the development process back home. Also the remittance market is adopting mobile money transfer; according to WorldRemit, half of the world`s 261 mobile money service providers are in sub-Saharan Africa. Texting is the most common use of mobile phones in Africa. About 15% of Africans have access to smart Internet connected phones. Mobile applications (money transfer, medical help, farm production information) are revolutionizing life in Kenya, and driving development in South Africa and Nigeria. There are 100 million active Facebook users on the continent, 80% of them using mobiles. Madagascar offers a mobile cloud phone service based on a login like e-mail so that users who do not have to have their own phones can borrow someone else’s mobile phone to make a call. The new Main One and West Africa fiber-optic cables are cutting cost and increasing speed. QuizMax is a free mobile phone app for math and science education used by 100,000 children in South Africa. Uganda received an African Development Bank award for its cell-based health management system. Kenya’s Digital Villages Project integrates Internet access, business training, and microcredit. FAO’s Africa Crop Calendar Web site provides information for 130 crops. Tight government budgets and AIDS deaths among professionals make tele-education, tele-medicine, and e-government increasingly important. Teachers and students in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda have received over 1,000 Kindles and 180,000 e-books, bringing massive e-libraries to schools. Google Translate is now available for Chichewa, Hausa, Igbo, Malagasy, Sesotho, Somali, Yoruba, and Zulu.

Asia and Oceania: Asia has the largest share of the world’s Internet users (45%) but only 26% penetration. In 2014 China has about 632 million Internet users (47% penetration)(up from 420 million in 2011), and in 2012 about 388 million Internet-connected mobile phones (up from 280 million). There are stiff penalties there for “rumor spreading”, i.e. forwarding non-official news items on the Net. The government has introduced the “Great Cannon”, a technique for a DDoS attack on Web sites that are considered to be carrying anti-China material. Phones are being smuggled into North Korea to post reports on conditions. Although South Korea is rated by the UN as a leading e-ready country, its youth struggle with video game addiction. The BBC offers educational courses via the newspapers, TV, and mobile phones for learner-paced options in Bangladesh, with plans to improve the English language skills of 25 million Bangladeshis by 2017. Pakistan has a program to teach literacy and then guide students to job openings. India is establishing e-government stations in rural villages. The rise of the mobile phone in India has led to the development of caste-oriented social media communities.

Europe: Finland has made 1 Mbps broadband a legal right for all Finns and plans to increase that to 100M bps by 2015, and Estonia has declared Net access to be a human right. It is EU policy that Internet access is a right that can be cut off for misuse. The EU’s Safer Internet Programme is working in 26 European countries to counter child pornography, pedophilia, and digital bullying. Montenegro is creating Tele-Montenegro to connect its citizens overseas with the development process back home. The Czech Republic has passed a law requiring most companies to have a Web site with relevant corporate information. Over 50% of Russians use the Internet more often than once a week, and it is a major source of news free from government control. On the other hand, Russia has banned profanity and obscenity from all public media, including literature and news. In the Netherlands, virtually all households have a computer (97%) and Iceland has the second highest proportion of households with Internet access globally, at 96%. The European Union’s Digital Agenda aims at bringing fast broadband (> 30 Mbit/s) to all, and achieving 50% of households with superfast broadband (> 100 Mbit/s) subscriptions by 2020. This will be achieved through increased investments in broadband (including EU financing EU financing as well as funding from national and private sources), increased competition between broadband providers and regulatory initiatives.

Latin America: About 40% of the region has Internet access (up from 34% in 2011). About 30 million of the region’s children are expected to have Internet access by 2015. Uruguay is the first country to provide all primary students with their own Internet-connected laptop, followed by Costa Rica. Fulfilling the promise of these tools will require more serious attention to training. Peru’s construction of a fiber optic backbone is planned to begin at the end of 2013 and to be completed in 2016. Although fiber optic cable has been laid between Cuba and Venezuela, connecting their governments, Cubans still have the slowest access in Latin America. Brazil and Colombia have plans in place to bring affordable broadband to more households. The goal of Brazil’s Programa Nacional de Banda Larga is to bring broadband access to 40 million of the country’s households by 2014, in particular in rural areas, in cooperation with Brazilian operators. Colombia’s Vive Digital aims to connect 50% of the country’s households to the Internet by 2014.

North America: The US has the fastest computer as of 2018 with Summit from IBM at 200 petaflops. For the past five years, China had the fastest computer. 73.% of US households have high speed Internet access. Silicon Valley continues as a world leader in innovative software due to company policies like Google’s that gives its employees 20% free time to create anything they want. This “20-percent Time” is credited with half of Google’s new products. The White House has proposed ConnectED, a project to connect all schools and libraries in the US to high speed Internet within five years. The Digital Public Library of America houses more than five million books, manuscripts, etc. from museums and libraries. Cyber-attacks are increasingly viewed as the #1 threat to US national security; the State Dept. has warned that such an attack could trigger “self-defense”. A private foundation is giving free Wi-Fi to New York City’s Harlem to cover 95 city blocks by May 2014 for about 80,000 Harlem residents.


Writer: The Millennium Project of USIA Council Member Jerome C. Glenn


NOTE: USIA People have their own views and opinions that are not necessarily the USIA, and vice versa.


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