Artificial Intelligence (AI for short) has long been a favorite subject of science fiction writers and consumers alike. From the 1983 thriller “War Games” to Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movies and other forms of entertainment have considered the possible roles AI will play in the future of man. Whether we grew up on Star Trek, Star Wars or video games, all science fiction fans love the idea of battling against robots!
What used to be limited to science fiction is now getting closer to reality with billion dollar corporations like amazon, google, and Microsoft dumping huge sums of money into AI technology. Things like Amazon Alexa and Google Home may seem harmless enough, but not all AI technology is to be praised. Sadly it seems the Human VS robot battle we all over prepared for as kids isn’t likely to happen. Instead our battle with AI is much more subtle and sinister. Lets take a look at some new technology that will make you uneasy about the future!
During the 2017 F8 conference Facebook announced a variety of new goals and research projects for the future, one of which was the ability to read minds. The goal is for Facebook to create technology capable of reading your thoughts and converting them to text. While the Facebook speaker acknowledged the medical use for paralyzed patients she expressed that the company’s interest in this goes far beyond that. Current technology exists to allow a person to move an object just as a mouse cursor with their thoughts. However, this requires a surgically implanted sensor to be placed in the brain. Facebook’s stated goal is to create a “non-invasive” method to read thoughts from outside of the human body.
A recent article featured at wired.com outlined how the American justice system is incorporating AI to help sentence criminals. If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself at the mercy of the court, a computer would provide the judge with your “Risk Score”. For example, this computer program might tell the judge you are a high risk and likely to repeat a crime. Based on this info the Judge may choose to give you a longer sentence or higher bail. To make things worse this program is proprietary, so no one but the creator can know how it really works. The program may simply be picking random numbers, or basing your risk score on your skin color, but no one can be sure. The role of artificial intelligence in the Justice System can only get worse. Imagine a jury made of robots?!
Most American’s are familiar with the use of drones against foreign enemies, but how about using drones against ourselves? 2016 marked the first year domestic police used a robot to kill a human. Now in 2017, some Connecticut legislators have started discussing if the law should allow lethal force from drones. In layman’s terms, the law could allow police to kill you with a drone. Presumably this would be a very limited use tactic, but robots in law enforcement are becoming more and more common. You may soon find yourself being issues a speeding ticket from a small flying robot!
As our experiences become more and more digital, we often come to know and even think like people we have never met or seen in person. What if some of the people you follow, or are friends with are not people at all? Improvements in AI make this extremely possible and it is likely already happening. In fact some estimates claim that 48 million twitter accounts are robots. Many companies are actively working on chat bots that can engage in human conversation. We all have experienced this to some degree with automated customer service. Even the police have an interest in this technology, using chat bots to entrap suspects into admitting or committing crimes. Beyond that, software exists to manipulate video and audio to create seemingly human content. This not only applies to fake accounts, but also to people that already exist. This video shows how easy it can be to create a video that shows even the president of the United States saying things they never actually said.
While, this technology may currently be used to create inspiring “humans” that make you want to buy the same products they use, it could be used in a much more sinister way. For example, a fake human could be created on Twitter or Facebook. This account could be given large amounts of fake followers creating a perception of popularity and clout. This fake person can then rise to a position of influence over society and public thought. Those who control such artificial intelligence could create thought leaders, cultural icons, or even martyrs to help shift public opinion and control the direction of a nation.
These few examples give us a glimpse into a possible future with artificial intelligence. Often, my brother and I discuss the coming of the day when you will not be able to know what is real and what is fake. That thought discouraged me, and I certainly would not prefer that future, but perhaps there is a silver lining. Maybe the more humanity is mimicked by machines the more value we will find in true human interaction. Maybe we will find that lines of code can never replace the love of a fellow human.