George Orwell’s 1984 “could come to pass in 2024”, warns Microsoft president Brad Smith

Microsoft’s president Brad Smith has issued a chilling warning that life as depicted in George Orwell’s 1984 “could come to pass in 2024” if lawmakers don’t protect the public against artificial intelligence.

Speaking to BBC's Panorama, he said it will be "difficult to catch up” with the rapidly advancing technology.

The programme explores China’s increasing use of AI to monitor its citizens.

Critics fear the state's dominance in the area could threaten democracy.

“If we don’t enact the laws that will protect the public in the future, we are going to find the technology racing ahead, and it’s going to be very difficult to catch up,” Mr Smith said.

I’m constantly reminded of George Orwell’s lessons in his book 1984. You know the fundamental story…was about a government who could see everything that everyone did and hear everything that everyone said all the time. Well, that didn’t come to pass in 1984, but if we’re not careful that could come to pass in 2024.

Brad Smith

In certain parts of the world, reality is increasingly catching up with that view of science fiction, Smith added.

China’s ambition is to become the world leader in AI by 2030, and many consider its capabilities to be far beyond the EU.

Certainly in 2019, China beat the U.S. at the number of patents secured by academic institutions for innovation in AI technologies.

Eric Schmidt, former Google chief executive who is now chair of the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, has warned that beating China in AI is imperative.

“We’re in a geo-political strategic conflict with China,” he said. “The way to win is to marshal our resources together to have national and global strategies for the democracies to win in AI.

“If we don’t, we’ll be looking at a future where other values will be imposed on us.”

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