The quest to predict the unpredictable and to control the uncontrollable is a part of an ongoing process. In the field of science and technology, sometimes it led to discoveries and useful innovations too. AI can be seen as the product of such human endeavors.
In the current trends in AI, it is interesting to see that some discussions are now entering into a phase, where ideas of self-consciousness, free will, and unpredictability are referred to as the ‘features’ of the systems while reliability, efficiency, and predictability kind of ‘labels,’ are more and more promoted as some expectations from the human users.
“The thought of every age is reflected in its technique,” wrote mathematician Norbert Wiener in his classic work ‘Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine.’ Wiener’s findings have played a significant part in the foundation of autonomous systems, communication, and AI. But that generation of the scientist was not that hopeful about the future use of their inventions, Wiener highlighted those aspects too, where he wrote: “Those of us who have contributed to the new science of cybernetics thus stand in a moral position, which is, to say the least, not very comfortable. We have contributed to the initiation of a new science which embraces technical developments with great possibilities for good and for evil.” And “we can only hand it over to the world that exists about us…and this is the world of Hiroshima and Belsen.”
September 2021 was an interesting month! It saw the launch of two critical AI predictions, from two different parts of the world. Kai-Fu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures and former president of Google China, together with a science fiction writer Chen Qiufan, published a book “AI 2041- Ten Vision for our Future” and coincidently during the same time Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher’s book “The Age of AI and Our Human Future,” was launched too.
To put it a bit sarcastically, the ‘changing nature of jobs’ is one of the most talked-about AI topics, and an example of that can be seen here as well. One can see in the above case how the job of scientists, mathematicians, and technologists, is now snatched/replaced by some fiction writers and ex-diplomats, who often prefer to produce their views in an entertaining/interesting fashion!
In the month of November, the UNESCO members (193 countries) have adopted an agreement on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence that defines common values and principles needed to ensure “healthy development of AI.” And in the same month, NATO defense ministers have agreed to their first-ever strategy for artificial intelligence.
In the last few years, AI has produced a good number of futurists too. And if ‘Singularity’ has been achieved, or is about to, as some of them claim that means AI is going to be more superior to ‘Human Intelligence,’ then can’t we expect AI algorithms to regulate, restrain or discipline themselves? Something that his low human competitor is good at doing, hope this concern will get addressed in the next set of AI predictions!
Some Silent Developments
Some real-world developments in this domain, with more practical objectives and implications, are needed to be looked upon as well. This year, in October, a senior pentagon official resigned as he thought “the US could not compete with China on AI.” His move directed the attention of all to the emerging patterns of the AI arms race that were otherwise going silently (in a typical AI Cold War Manner). Earlier this month, the US Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese Military Power, the report highlights China’s growing focus on developing the next generation warfare capabilities that include the use of more “mechanized, informatized, and intelligentized” systems with the help of specific emerging tech including AI and advanced robotics and the use of AI for social media analysis and propaganda are mentioned in the report as well.
On the other side, the US Innovation and Competition Act 2021 was enacted by US Senate in June this year, which is seen as a counter-reaction to China’s growing tech aspirations. There are several other overt and covert moves that are going on, on both sides but what is more interesting is that a new kind of mutual understanding between the two, on the question of the division of AI’s strategic pie, is taking shape as well. As Kai-Fu Lee perfectly highlights in this book that “China and the United States have already jumped out to an enormous lead over all other countries in artificial intelligence, setting the stage for a new kind of bipolar world order,” and “as AI companies in the United States and China accumulate more data and talent, the virtuous cycle of data-driven improvements is widening their lead to a point where it will become insurmountable.”
In a nutshell, both sides have not just big tech and big data but big ambitions as well and their maneuvers in this domain can certainly take a more ‘uncertain’ turn in the years to come!
From science to technology to politics to geopolitics, the pace of shift in the world of AI is quite impressive.
The ‘Human’ perspective
If the mind can be decoded then it can be reprogrammed, if it can be reprogrammed, then it can be controlled- these ideas have fascinated researchers for decades. And it is important here to note that the progress in the fields of Artificial Intelligence is not the product of computers and information technology alone, it includes physiology, neurology as well as psychological experiments.
How AI is going to shape and influence the way of human life, is a question that has been answered in many different and innovative ways. But ironically, the ‘Human’ perspective in AI is yet to be introduced. And AI cannot be blamed for this, it is the fault of our human systems which cannot distinguish between a user and an instrument.
For technology and its improvisations to remain significant, it is necessary that its core interest must shift with the changing time.
AI is created to make humans more productive and to reduce their labor content. A fair brainstorming on how optimally the human can use “AI” is still due on our part.
The time to shift the focus from AI to the ‘Human’ angle has come!