Artificial Intelligence is a fascinating technology development topic, but the story we should be talking about is its impact on human rights.

Only we’re not.

Its promoters don’t want to talk about it in anything but glib, glossy language. It’s how we were sold the miracle of social media — remember the invention of digital town halls? — and, before that, every wave of technical innovation. Cars will bring people together. Automated looms will bring down the price of clothes.

We should know by know that any remotely credible tale about the future of AI would explore the likely negatives that’ll come along with its promised positives.

But all we hear about are convenience improvements at home and work. We’re been given free samples of tech to encourage our belief in the wonders of faster shopping and shortcuts for doing homework. De facto free perks without consequences.

GPT-4 as gateway drug.

Worries? They’re presented as either incomprehensibly big and far away or maddeningly small and impossible to control. Both angles defy our elected officials to do anything about them.

Sure, AI might blow up the world someday but, hey, the planet is melting, too, and we’re unable to do little more than tsk-tsk about it. AI might also cheat and screw up its work along its journey to Armageddon, but legislation intended to ensure every AI interaction is judged “fair” is about as impossible to deliver as similarly managing every human interaction.

All the while, the AI human rights story goes untold.

Conservative estimates are that AI could take over 10% of jobs in America over the next few years and, over time, impact 80% of all jobs in the US and EU. Hundreds of millions of people will see their jobs simplified as tasks are outsourced to AI, their work hours reduced thereby or their jobs eliminated entirely therefrom.

Tech apologists claim that such dislocations are acceptable damages in a process that will eventually yield greater benefits, as long as you don’t acknowledge all of the suffering along the way or intended and unintended cost “externalities.” There’s also some serious bias built into assumptions of who will enjoy those benefits and suffer those costs.

What’s inarguable is that AI will become ever-present in everyone’s personal lives. It’ll everything from monitoring how and where we travel to what we do when we’re at home, to assessing and determining our health, love matches, political choices, and careers. Our decisions will not longer be our own but rather informed, encouraged, and actuated by the insights and intentions of AI.

AI challenges our most basic assumptions about our rights as citizens, not to mention our rights as human beings. What will be truly ours? Who (or what) will look out for our interests exclusively? What agency will we have to buck the otherwise perfect system?

This is the story, not a glib sidebar to the technical wonder of the latest gizmo.

I’m not saying that we will become unemployed serfs who live under the deterministic thumb of whomever (or whatever) controls our AIs.

But we might. And not telling this story certainly improves the chances of it coming true.

[This essay appeared originally at Spiritual Telegraph]