There is a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt out there when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The tech press enjoys yanking people’s chains when it comes to the dangers of artificial intelligence. AI is coming for your jobs. AI is racist, sexist, and biased. AI will lead to World War III. AI will secure and protect us from the bad out there. AI will be the source of all of our worries and the solution to all of our worries.
I’m interested in the storytelling around all of this, and I’m fascinated by the distracting quality of technology when it comes to absolving the humans behind of doing bad things.
We have the technology to make this black boxes more observability and accountable. The algorithms feeding us news, judging us in courtrooms, and deciding if we are insurable or a risk can all be wrapped with APIs and made more accountable. However, there are many human reasons why we don’t do this. Every AI out there can be held accountable — it isn’t rocket science. The technology exists to keep AI from hurting us, judging us, and impacting our lives in negative ways. However, it is the people behind this who do not want it; otherwise, their stories won’t work. Their stories won’t have the desired effect and control over our lives.
APIs are the layer being wielded for good and for bad on the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit all leverage APIs to be available on our mobile phones. APIs are how people automate, advertise, and fund their activities on their platforms. APIs are how AI and ML are being exposed, wielded, and leveraged. The technology is already there to make them more accountable — we just don’t have the human will to use the technology we have. There is more money to be made in telling wild stories about what is possible, telling stories that make folks afraid and in awe of what is possible with technology. APIs are used to tell you the stories while also making the fire shoot from the stage, and the smoke and the mirrors operate, instead of helping us see, understand, and verify what is going on behind the scenes.
We rarely discuss the fact that AI isn’t coming for our jobs. It is the people behind the AI — at the companies developing, deploying, and operating AI — that are coming for our jobs. AI, like APIs, are neither good, nor bad, nor neutral — they are a tool. They are technology, and anything they do is because of us humans. I don’t fear AI. I only fear the people doing AI — the people who tell the stories, the people who are believers. I don’t fear technology because I know we have the tools to do what is right and hold the people who are using technology in bad ways accountable. I’m afraid because we don’t seem to have the will to look behind the curtain. We hold up many of the people telling stories about AI as visionaries, leaders, and truth tellers. I don’t fear AI; I only fear its followers.