We worship & trust AI a̶l̶m̶o̶s̶t to the degree of idolatry. Those who defend and promote the ever wide-spreading use of it in every aspect of human life are myopic to its future & present perils and threats. The leading forces of global commerce have woven AI into the fabric of our lives in order to “improve our lives and reduce costs”. Thanks to the AI revolution, our personalities and psyches have become commodities available to anyone, at low low prices (see 60 Minute’s excellent examination of this horrid world, or the short version on YouTube).
There are 2 sides (often, much more than just 2) to every coin.
Let’s take the AI-powered self-driving cars and trucks as an example for what AI can and already does to us, unbeknown to many people. Yup, it could potentially save the lives of millions (reduce up to 90% of traffic accidents according to the US DMV) – but the invention of the humble seat-belt did just that… no programming or firmware updates required. Plus, a seat-belt cannot be remotely hacked and drive you into a wall at 100 mph. Our over-reliance and addiction to technology is killing us today. Every year in the US alone, thousands of people die from using a very specific AI-driven technology (smartphones) while driving. In a 2017 research conducted for AT&T, Kantar Added Value revealed that out of 7,500 online respondedns surveyed, 90% of drivers admit to using their smartphones while driving. The top activities people admit they perform while driving are reading & writing text, playing music, viewing & taking pictures, emailing and participating on social media. Yup, 9/10 people do this stuff on their phone while they’re driving, while they know they’re undeniably much more likely to hit someone or something (a child, a car, a tree), or worse, potentially cause a pile up that kills people and injures dozens. They do all this while knowing the very same device they’re messing with while driving will contain absolute evidence that will send them to jail for a long time. This thought sure makes you feel a bit safer now on the road, doesn’t it?
The impending automated transportation revolution will probably reduce these car accidents dramatically, but the thought of humanity becoming entirely depended on a technology it that it now also technically worships constantly, night & day can be quite depressing, if you want to pick that scab for a moment.
Perhaps reclaiming our lives and detoxing ourselves from our over-reliance and addiction to tech & AI is what we need if we want to “save lives on the road”.
The danger, which Stephen Hawking mentioned in his dreary open letter warning stating AI could “spell the end of the human race”, can be anticipated in many ways – one of which is that AI could outgrow & outsmart the sum of human intelligence… then attempt to remove or re-invent humanity in order to optimize whatever it thinks it should. This idea has been repeatedly expressed not only by science-fiction greats like Mary Shelly, Karel Čapek and Philip K. Dick, but also in the 16th-century tale of the Golem of by the rabbi of Prague. I’m pretty much positive that ancient sacred writings of many religions Alan Turing, father of the modern computer, already said this very clearly back in 1951: “It seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers… They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control.” Today, this very same notion is also expressed very vocally by folks like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Louis Del Monte, author of The Artificial Intelligence Revolution. As AI researcher Eliezer Yudowski put it, “AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.”
Absurd failures in AI, such as Microsoft’s racist twitter chatbot Tay or Amazon’s once-secret AI Recruiter (who’s a total sexist, apparently), are not the product of an all-knowing machine that continuously builds itself at an exponential rate – it’s the product of poor or mediocre planning, design and thinking by human programmers. Perhaps AI programmers are naturally maligned by a demigod complex – which can explain why even tech giants like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook produce alarming failures with AI. Governments and government-size organizations (both types of organizations always share a bed) are those who are buying & making these AI technologies, we run the risk of becoming our own freak creations’ house pets. The technological industry is concerned too much about “progress” and profit, and too little with machine morals and ethics. Perhaps furthmore, now should be the time for humanity to start designing the conditions of its complete and total slavery to the machine (whether the machine is controlled by a handful of individuals, the masses, or its constantly-evolving and omnipresent digital brain). Our over-reliance on computers & AI to handle the challenging aspects is rapidly turning our lives into a comfy, lazy existence devoid of independent thinking – a joyless life in which we are constantly marinated in the somatic pleasures of bits, bytes, blips and bloops.
We cannot rely on misinformed, unintelligent, lazy and apathetic policy makers to attempt to control the unstoppable growth of AI – it’s up to us to control our addiction to technological slavery. Perhaps it’s time to turn off, tune in and drop out.