Tech obsession becoming robot takeover
Hello and welcome to 2018, where more than 70 percent of Americans fear that robots are taking over the world. Okay, perhaps I fudged the wording a bit, but before you roll your eyes, let me just say, this data is not from attendees of a sci-fi convention or anything like that. This is the percent Pew research Center found after conducting a nationwide survey on the “fear” Ameri- cans express in relation to the “future of robotics.” And while I am certainly no expert in technological innovation, I’d have to say that I fall in that majority.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is all the hype these days. It can dramatically improve lives, diagnose medical conditions, drive our cars for us, its potential is growing infinitely. This is exciting, promising for sure, but also kinda terrifying. We are living in a time where the line between science fiction and reality is becoming increasingly blurred. I used to be able to watch a movie or read a book and say, “whelp that could never happen.” But now, I just never know. I now find it difficult confidently determining which technologies found in these films already exist and which don’t (but likely will in due time).
A lot of fear, stems from the fact that robots will replacing millions of workers employed in all kinds of industries. But the concerns don’t end there.
Tesla boss Elon Musk recently called artificial intel- ligence “more dangerous than nuclear weapons,” according to a CNBC report. “Nobody would suggest that we allow anyone to build nuclear airheads if they want. That would be insane,” Musk explains. But, when it comes to who
has the authority to develop AI technology, and for what purpose, the answers aren’t as clear. This brings into question will AI’s potential for good really supersede its potential for harm or unforeseen chaos?
If you’ve ever seen the Netflix show Black Mirror, you know that as cool as the future of artificial intelligence may seem, its possibilities are pretty unsettling too.
Perhaps the shows best comparison to robots is in season 2’s first episode entitled “Be Right Back.” Basically, a woman purchases a service which essentially brings her recently deceased boyfriend back to life. Using photos, vid- eos and social media posts, the program is able to reinvigorate his personality. She speaks to him over the phone, and chats with her husband avatar online. But the creepiest part is when he takes the bodily form of an almost-real being. She starts to fall for her dead beau’s robot doppelgänger.
If you’ve seen the episode, it probably gave you the heebie jeebies at one point or another, in part because it seems so messed up, but also because it seems scarily plausible.
According to Business Insider, this episode depicts some forms of communica- tion that already exist in the world. There are a number of AI programs and personality detection services such as “Crystal,” which aim to make artificial intelligence as smart as humans, adding the emotional component in humans to tailor emails and messages to certain personalities.
Maybe what’s most concerning about artificial intelligence is not the loss of human jobs to robots or loss of human control, but that unregulated human decisions could be at the helm of these algorithmic creations.
Humans, naturally have empathy, flaws, biases and ques- tionable ethics. But if people are fundamentally flawed, bi- ased, how can innovators avoid putting these biases in the very personalities they aim to make? It’s also important that they ensure that the technol- ogy doesn’t emulate unethical behavior once it’s released into the world.
Microsoft’s Tay Chatbot, for example, which was designed to strike up twitter conversa- tions with millennials ended up developing a genocide- supporting Nazi “personal- ity,” tweeting messages like “Hitler did nothing wrong.” There is enough bias, harm, and human-made problems in the world already, bringing in biased technologies into the world is the last thing we need.
Artificial Intelligence doesn’t have to be something that we fear. My hope is that the focus on rapidly developing AI does not surpass its regulation, gov- ernance on how it is used and thorough analysis of the ethics in its every use.
Katelyn Merrigan, a senior, studies English and graphic design. She is the Business Manager and Online Editor of Le Provocateur.