artificial intelligence and how it affects us

When it comes to talking, thinking about and discussing artificial intelligence (AI for short) we stumble really quickly. Because we think of artificial intelligence as something with human virtues and attributes but with extremely enhanced capabilities we’re quick to project upon it either angelic or satanic qualities and deduce that artificial intelligence, once achieved, will either save us or annihilate us.

These are capabilities we all have, both at a personal and a collective level. Their exercise however, both personally and collectively, usually takes place along guidelines we call ethics. This is where things become anxiety-generating for us. There is no agreed upon ethical framework for the development of AI by humans and there may be no ethical AI as a result.

At the moment this doesn’t mean that ethics don’t apply. Quite the contrary. A Harvard University metanalysis showed that ethics are very much a part of AI research and development. It’s just that the approach is a little haphazard and ad hoc. Cutting edge science, of course, works that way in order to produce breakthroughs but seeing how the end result here may be something that both the late Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned against AI approaching it without a solid grounding in ethics may be courting trouble.

The real issue, of course, lies not so much with artificial intelligence but ourselves. As Peter Hass rightly says we need to confront ourselves first and then think about what the emergence of true AI will do to our society.

Before you begin to feel rising panic consider that right now, at its very best, AI has severe limitations as Alexander Reben’s TED talk demonstrates. Neuroscience researcher, Sam Harris, in his TED Talk explores just how far can we go before losing control over our creation.

Intelligence is designed to thrive on pattern recognition so the most keen-witted amongst you will have noticed how history repeats itself. We now need some author to give us the modern-day equivalent of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the history loop will have been complete.

Westworld, of course, the original, written and directed by Michael Crichton doesn’t quite count because it’s more of a grown-up boy’s daydream gone bad than a true exploration of the meaning of intelligence, the virtues of life and a dive into the ethics (and rights) of true sentience.

Thankfully these are all things Westworld, the series, has succeeded in addressing. Catch up if you haven’t seen it already and consider it against the backdrop of Person of Interest and consider how while we are inclined to trust robots over humans we have still to successfully devise what it is that sets us apart from them.

Identity is important because, like everyone who’s read The Sniper Mind already knows, it leads to a clarification of values which help us understand what’s important. This then leads to a better prioritization of goals, a clearer understanding of direction and overall better choices and decision in almost any situation you can think of.

Like every other technology we employ artificial intelligence is an augmentation of our current skills. Its deployment, inevitably, becomes a reflection of our thinking, attitudes and intent.

The loop leads back to us then. A little like every other loop in history. And we are, usually, part of the problem as well as part of the solution. Solving our issues requires us to know ourselves and know our world.

I know you know that I know you know you need to have coffee. Plus. Something sweet: donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake. Our deep dives here require them. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.