Killing Machines: AI and Social Media

Ian Mitroff
3 min readJun 5


I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

Two articles in The New York Times lead to the beastly conclusion that we’re engaged in nothing less than the continuous race to invent and perpetuate Killing Machines[i].

While Social Media is not typically thought of as such, and while the evidence is mixed, there’s little doubt that it’s played a major role in the rise of teen suicides and serious bouts of depression. This is not to say that it has no positive benefits at all such as allowing people to get together. But even here, teens themselves report that it really doesn’t allay their feelings of loneliness, and in fact, it even contributes to it. At best, teens are divided with regard to the benefits.

From the constant Threats of Mass Shootings to the unmitigated Fears of being left out and even bullied, we’ve created an environment that hassles children every moment of their lives. Indeed, it contributes to feelings of dread.

When it comes to AI, there’s no doubt whatsoever that it’s a Killing Machine. The Fears are real indeed that it could start wars by taking important decisions away from Humans. The fact that AI can process reams of Data so much faster than Humans ever can, plus that we’re in a race with our adversaries, notably the Chinese, to develop such systems means that it’s almost inevitable that AI systems will not only misinterpret the signals that enemy missiles have been launched, but preemptively engage in action. We could go from peace to war in a nano-second.

We will have “succeeded” — if that’s the appropriate word — in taking people out of the loop, Human judgement will be reduced to where it counts for nothing. In the process, Nuclear Armageddon will be a certainty.

While the two Threats are not necessarily equal, it would be a mistake to downplay either one of them. Indeed, given the rampant Dis-Information that is a prominent feature of Social Media, it’s not difficult to envision cases where it would add to the need for war

The words of Pogo couldn’t be more applicable: “We’ve met the enemy and he is us!”

[i] Matt Richtel, Catherine Pearson, and Michael Levenson, “Advisory Says Teens Face Risk On Social Sites,” The New York Times, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, PP A1 and A17; Peter Coy, “A.I. May One Day Make War Decisions. Be Afraid,” The New York Times, Wednesday, May 24, 2023, P A23.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His most recent are: Techlash: The Future of the Socially Responsible Tech Organization, Springer, New York, 2020. The Psychodynamics of Enlightened Leadership; Coping with Chaos, Co-authored with Ralph H. Kilmann, Springer, New York, 2021. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid 19, Springer, New York, 2022.

Photo by Gilles Lambert on Unsplash



Ian Mitroff