To Be or Not to Be AI
It is important to be polite to AI? They don't have minds of their own, so why would we? Let's find out what one person thinks.
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“I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that improves and replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that outperforms humans.” — Stephen Hawking
Professor Hawking has always warned us about the implications of AI if not used responsibly. While nations, researchers, visionaries, and human activists argue on defining the boundaries of an ethical policy framework on the use and application of AI, technology out there is multiplying by many folds. Humans explore, understand, and create new machine learning techniques in a period of about months, whereas Machine Learning, on the other hand, is observing human behavioral patterns, analyzing them real-time, and evolving by itself with every iteration. Thanks to the proliferation of IoT Devices picking data from even the darkest corners of The Earth and Supercomputers processing these data at the speed of ML algorithms, both feeding a new form of life that coexist with the human race, Artificial Intelligence!
Before we think further let us ask ourselves a few questions. Has AI taken over yet? If not, when would it take over? If it were to take over, who is going to be the Detective Spooner to save humans? Drawing inferences from those Sci-Fi movies, I am totally convinced that technology is going to take control on us sooner or later, but it would not kill people (or would it?)
The moment we wake up, we are connected to various smart devices, which not only inform us about the weather in our location, but also suggest us to carry an umbrella as per the conditions outside. As we hit the gym, we play our favorite songs and also know what the world is listening to via #Trending. By the way, it is worth noticing that we are going to the gym because AI suggested it in the first place (LOL!!). Our geysers heat water to an appropriate degree suitable for our body temperature based on the conditions outside. As we have breakfast, of course, suggested by a healthy food app connected to the smart wearables strapped around our body, we get to listen to news from across the globe curated as per our interests. Needless to mention our dependency on Google Maps to avoid traffic on the way while we navigate. Stock market predictions to nearly accurate numbers, Smart Home Control with voice commands, e-Commerce suggestions based on market basket analysis as we shop online. Looks like AI has already taken over.
Now, the debate goes beyond the scope of whether humans are supposed to be or not to be artificially intelligent because* we have already given into AI, to take control on our lives and makes it easier and better. However, I do not see a reason to panic yet because we are the most intelligent living beings. Our logic and inventions were always formulated to help civilizations prosper with happiness. From this article, I would like to talk about my recent observation, which is often ignored by the policymakers, yet sounds alarming to me. This is about Human Psychology and its influence on the way we interact with technology.
A newborn, after about 18 months, would be able to differentiate a mirror image and realize that the person in the mirror is his own self. The irony is technology has advanced to an extent where the same baby grows up to a person and could not realize if he was talking to a real human or a chatbot. As an ardent fan of Google, I was awestruck by Google Duplex, which showcased its capabilities at Google I/O 2018, when it made a phone call in real time to vendors and convinced them as if they were talking to a human (video reference here). Such technology helps small vendors, who are not identified on the internet, acquire business and save some time for the customers by handling mundane tasks like a piece of cake.
Sometimes, during the never-ending discussions among my colleagues on how AI is going to steal our jobs, I get the below image in my mind, and I put it on a lighter note saying, “'Netflix and Chill' Would probably be the only job left for us to do.”
Clearly, AI is going to cut down on the number of jobs in current roles, but I think it would also unlock some new roles. Let me tell you how, by explaining the typical working model of an ML system. Machine Learning, the brain of AI, is a piece of code written by developers, which is then trained on samples of historical data and deployed in a black box. Blackbox predicts events based on the inputs given by users. The probability of any event in the output is highly influenced by the sample data on which it is trained. As we train and fine-tune the model more, it learns by itself and evolves into a better system with improved accuracy. The Developer would not have an idea on what the possible output would be because it depends on how the ML algorithm understands the data.
IoT devices are constantly streaming information from sensors and smart devices around us into the Blackbox, which can predict events at the same rate. This data is classified as highly sensitive as it is related to our personal information. We have witnessed the biggest single-day fall in the history of the US stock market when Facebook shares plunged wiping off $120 Billion dollars because of data protection policies.
The bigger questions here would be — what data is to be shared? Who standardizes that? Who formulates policies? Who is responsible for transparency of the data? Who is accountable for the mistakes of AI? AI can learn itself to become super-intelligent, who controls this learning rate? Answering all these questions would pave a way to a new spectrum of opportunities. We would be working on a completely different set of roles and responsibilities in jobs like testing, analysis, governance, etc.
That sounds promising, so what is the problem? Defining policies on human psychology to use AI is not something that is in the scope of any governing body. I think it is an act that should come from within each one of us, as a self-regulation. We are just following whatever AI suggests to us, so why is human thinking prominent in this scenario? Well, it is for various reasons. We all might have done this or have seen a few people doing it.
“Ok Google, F**k off!” — just for fun.
“Alexa, shut up!” — when it is trying to complete the rest of the sentence.
A plausible explanation for such behavior relates back to the human psychological condition — Superiority Complex. For instance, we take orders from parents, teachers, friends, and bosses, which make us think that they are more powerful. When we encounter disturbing events in our society and want to do something to change it, we prefer to stay put because of an inferior feeling. Over a period of time, all the things we perceive will only build up to make us feel more inferior, and we tend to take such emotions down on someone more inferior to us.
Voice assistants, in this case, would not fight back, and this clearly seems like a win for us. We show all kinds of emotions when we interact with these voice assistants. We speak to them all day, probably more than we talk to our neighbors or friends. We ask questions, make suggestions, and are more dependent on them with time. Human emotions develop from our interactions and get stronger from the way we feel about the conversation. “Have you ever felt better after yelling at your voice assistant?” Unarguably the answer would be no. Then why did we do it in the first place?
Most of the parents in this generation have observed a difference in their kid’s emotions. I've heard them complain that their kid is rude and gets impatient easily. I see this as a part of evolution. I think, with the kind of lifestyle we lead and the pressure at work to deliver better and faster results every day, our DNA adapted itself to keep us future ready and obviously the results are seen in our kids.
Google has emphasized the importance of being polite while interacting with these voice assistants because we are being increasingly dependent on these assistants while having more natural conversations. The introduction of the "pretty please" feature with voice assistants clearly articulates the importance of being polite (video reference here).
Since Artificial Intelligence does the cognitive thinking to help us make informed decisions, if we are to choose to be artificially intelligent, we should consider having a conscience while using the technology.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.