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A pivotal week for AI
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In Clayton Christensen’s book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, he says:
“People often think that the best way to predict the future is by collecting as much data as possible before making a decision. But this is like driving a car looking only at the rearview mirror—because data is only available about the past.”
And so, when we look at AI, we need to bear in mind the messages from the past from the debacle that Social Media brought us - but we just don’t know what the world will become in the future
AI has a dual potential: either humanity's greatest ally or its worst adversary. AI's current trajectory is shaped largely by a few tech giants and governments, focusing on applications in military, surveillance, and advertising, raising ethical concerns about surveillance, inequality, and autonomy. And so ethics have taken centre stage both at Bletchley Park and Biden’s AI Regulation plan.
Pioneers in the field express the urgency of guiding AI's development responsibly, aiming to harness its power to solve global challenges like disease, poverty, and climate change, while avoiding dystopian outcomes. Researchers are working towards Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) — machines that can outperform humans in every task. The emerging consensus is that AI's immense potential must be directed carefully to ensure a future that benefits all of humanity, even if it means that we all won’t have jobs.
As we move forward, we do need to reflect on the impact of technology on society, particularly Facebook and Google and understand who is to blame for events such as the election of Trump and Brexit. The initial promise of technology was as a democratising force, which was supposed to increase interaction, democracy, and tolerance. I remember vividly when Web2 took the internet by storm - creating interactions we didn’t think possible. But what we hoped for didn’t materialise - the reality has been quite different, with platforms becoming "hijacked" and leading to increased polarization and the spread of extremist views - and the large tech companies still control our data. This data is used to drive advertisement revenues, using artificial intelligence to match ads with users effectively - and will soon be completely automated.
Some things that scare me as we move forward:
What is scary is the extensive data collection practices of companies like Palantir, which gather information on individuals' personal lives and activities to assist law enforcement, immigration, and intelligence agencies.
The increasing use of AI in decision-making processes. I think these black boxes demonstrate the lack of transparency in how these AI systems work and the potential biases they may perpetuate. If this was used things could get bad: predictive policing for reinforcing racial biases and creating feedback loops that can unjustly target minority communities.
We are also on the cusp of a "surveillance time machine" enabled by advanced face recognition and data tracking technologies, allowing for retroactive monitoring of individuals and we need to remember that Google's secretive Project Maven aimed to use AI to improve drone targeting as it moved towards becoming a defense contractor.
The integration of AI with vast data analytics is evident in China's widespread use of mobile payments, facial recognition, and surveillance technology. This technological prowess is utilized in social governance, particularly through the social credit system, which assesses citizens' trustworthiness based on various behaviors and could result in penalties or rewards.
I have talked before of a world where personal data is extensively collected, creating digital avatars that could influence individuals' behaviours and emotions. That’s actively happening. Students and grown adults are chatting with bots perceived to be safe, but we just don’t know if they actually are.
The reason why AI is a watershed moment is clear. AI will help solve the biggest problems, but control of such a tool, and training of it is the critical step we are in. We are currently in the early hacking years of this new age - and while you may not like Rishi Sunak or Joe Biden, when it comes to AI, they're trying to do the right thing to determine the future role of humans amidst advancing AI technologies.
Stay Curious - and don’t forget to be amazing,
Best TED video in a while:
Here are my recommendations for this week:
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