We’ve been hearing about artificial intelligence a lot lately. Systems like Alexa, Siri, Google Home, and more are found in millions of houses and pockets around the world. Mainstream media is constantly producing dozens of articles and features about the technology. Industry-leading enterprises are rapidly integrating it within their businesses. Movies like A Space Odyssey, Eagle Eye, or Minority Report tease our imaginations (and fears) with ideas of what AI could become. As interest in AI is at an all-time high, I figured I’d jot down some of my own thoughts and opinions about its place in the future of humanity.
Obviously there’s concern about AI controlling human beings or dehumanizing them. There’s a healthy concern because most of us don’t know or understand the true power of AI. Admittedly, I’m merely a novice when it comes to wrapping my mind around the technology. However, I think there are fundamentals a system can adhere to in order to maximize its positive impact on mankind. At its core AI must respect its users and obey its creator. While AI can already and should be able to process far more information than a person could, that doesn’t mean that it should be allowed to manipulate, govern or control people. Furthermore, and most importantly, I believe that AI’s core objective should be to protect, promote, and enhance natural life. This means that it can never do anything that would compromise the health and well-being of any organism whether that’s a tree, a mouse, or person down to the cellular level.
One might ask, well how are we supposed to use it in scientific experiments that may involve the harvesting/sacrifice of organic tissues and other samples? This is a difficult question because the way AI could conceivably be involved in something like that varies. The struggle that many engineers have to work through as they program these systems is what AI “serving the greater good” looks like in practice. If killing lab rats for the sake of advancing human cancer treatments would benefit from AI, could we involve the technology in a way that still promotes life across the board? Truthfully, I don’t know but it’s interesting to think about. I believe it was chess master Garry Kasparov who posed this question: If your self-driving car has to choose between colliding with a crowd of people or going off a cliff, does it protect you and plow right into the people or does it drive off the cliff in order to preserve more lives? This is an extreme scenario, but something that’s important to consider as AI develops.
Once we establish AI’s parameters it’s off to the races. With the protection and enhancement of natural life as its core objective, we can use it to solve so many problems. For example, our government struggles to balance its budget. This is mostly due to the fact that we make irrational compromises to appease parties with conflicting (and selfish) interests. We could train an AI system with information like the factors in the human development index and use it to spit out a budget based on society’s needs that would be much better than what we currently have. No more spending exorbitant amounts of money on sporting venues, we have state-of-the-art infrastructure, schools, hospitals, etc. instead. Likewise, if one of us was inflicted with a serious illness, we could use AI to determine the best possible treatment to preserve our quality of life and longevity.
Honestly, we’re still a ways away from AI being truly ubiquitous in our daily lives. However, it’s arriving sooner than we think and we need to be ready for it when it comes. These are just some of the things I’ve been thinking about. Maybe you have some thoughts as well.