scorecardMicrosoft's Jaron Lanier says AI advancing without human dignity will 'undermine everything', including reality
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Microsoft's Jaron Lanier says AI advancing without human dignity will 'undermine everything', including reality

Kali Hays   

Microsoft's Jaron Lanier says AI advancing without human dignity will 'undermine everything', including reality
Tech3 min read
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  • The future of AI is set to be "spiritually, politically, and economically" corrosive, Lanier said.
  • The entrepreneur spoke at a music panel that turned to AI. "What happens to musicians now happens to everybody later."

Jaron Lanier can see a future of artificial intelligence technology that doesn't work out well for anyone.

The writer, tech entrepreneur, and musician, who is a lauded technologist and a prime unifying scientist at Microsoft, said during a recent conference on tech and music hosted by Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global and Universal Music that the current rush to advance generative AI technology could be "spiritually, politically, and economically" corrosive. By effectively removing people, like musicians, from algorithms and tech that create new content, elements of society that were once connections between people are turned into "objects" that become less interesting and meaningful, Lanier explained.

"As soon as you have the algorithms taking music from musicians, mashing it up into new music, and then not paying the musicians, gradually you start to undermine the economy because what happens to musicians now happens to everybody later," Lanier said.

He noted that, while this year has been the "year of AI," next year the world is going to be "flooded, flooded with AI-generated music." With the release late last year of OpenAI's ChatGPT, the abilities and limitations of generative AI became a global conversation. A deluge of generative AI content, from simple search prompts to eerie deepfakes, is now up for broad government regulation.

Huffington, who hosted the panel Lanier spoke on, called to Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge in the crowd, and urged him to share what the music industry is doing about AI-generated music. Grainge stood and said his current strategy is "defense and attack." While the industry is taking "all the benefit of AI from a technical perspective," he insisted ownership and creative rights continue.

"We absolutely must have guardrails and protection of IP and copyright," Grainge said. "We have to protect the ideas. We have to protect the authenticity, and we have to protect the voice. We can't have a world where anything belongs to anybody without agreement, authorization, protection, et cetera."

In addition to AI-generated content nixing human connection found through creative works and causing an eventual collapse of the creative economy, Lanier said AI-generated content that can be perfected and customized also undermines peoples' "sense of reality."It makes "everything a little weird and spooky," something most people are not looking for.

"It makes a lot of people feel small…they feel like their identity is being undermined by modernity, and why shouldn't they feel that way?" Lanier said. "It's exactly the message we give them."

In order to combat the ability of AI to "undermine everything we care about," Lanier said engineers and technologists behind AI advancements need to "lose the ideology – you don't need to recreate the science fiction movies you grew up with." Then, there needs to be an acceptance that without people, there is no data. Lanier has written about and helped to define the concept of "data dignity," wherein people are not effectively forced to hand over their personal data in exchange for using internet platforms.

When it comes to AI, however, people may have more power over their future success than they may think.

"If you acknowledge that data comes from people, you have a future of an economy where people can be dignified, where people are acknowledged, where people can be inspired," Lanier said. "Then, the programs will get better because the people will be inspired to put better content into them. It just makes so much more sense."

Are you a tech employee or someone else with insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at, on secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a non-work device.