Yesterday I gave a talk at a major book fair (that was convenient since it took place in Turin, my home-town) in an event dedicated to explore the various aspects of Artificial Intelligence. I was the one asked to talk about technology, where we are and what we can expect. All the other speakers had a quite different background, I would say most of them seemed to have some difficulties in interacting with a computer so I felt strange to have them discussing AI.
Nevertheless, I should say that the points raised were interesting, probably in part because I am living in a parallel universe -;)
One comment was that AI in a way is just a tool: as with any tools we built in the past we are augmenting our capabilities but at the same time our tools have been changing us and the way we perceive the world. What happened in the past is happening again with AI with the difference that the change we are exposed to is much more sudden. Even for relatively recent tools, like trains and railways, we had time to adjust, several decades. What is happening with AI is sudden”. In just a few years the world we have been grown up is morphing into a different one. Think about the separation created by languages: it is fading away and give it a few more years and we will have managed to kill the Babel tower. Through Augmented Reality (letting you to see any text in your own language, be it a headline of a newspaper or a banner in a city landscape) and local processing (read: your smartphone) you will hear people talking your language and you will be talking to them in your language, although in reality they will be talking and hearing in their language. Who will guarantee that the translation is appropriate?
Many images we are seeing today are artefacts, developed to fit our expectations rather than to reflect reality. Actually, reality becomes a slippery world: what is reality as we no longer can separate the digital from the atoms, our reasoning from the one that is provided us on a plate by AI?
Education may change as well. One speaker was a professor. He lamented that knowledge as we knew it is disappearing leaving the space to off the shelf packetised (and packaged) knowledge.
Indeed, the issues raised by this new tool are many and legislators are rushing to out this new tool into a box. The problem is that digits are not confinable into boxes (or at the very least are difficult to constrain into boxes). In addition there is no consensus, so far, on how big these boxes have to be, nor on who should be in charge to set their boundaries.
Europe (meaning the European Commission) has just declared that the use of AI in social ranking and people recognition should be forbidden (yet we are AI-socially scored on social networks, on eBay, Craig List…., we are face identified by Facebook, Apple….). Thousands of miles away China uses in a massive way social scoring and facial recognition to track people. The problem is that those thousands of miles that used to separate Europe from China and that resulted in a time separation measurable in months, if not years, have faded away. Today the distance is down to the few centimetres separating me from my smartphone and the time separation is null (or smaller than a second is you want to be precise).
The Digital Reality Initiative will explore in a free webinar on October 19th some of the aspects of AI that go beyond technology. It is a webinar you should not miss if you are interested in AI and even more so if you are NOT interested in AI because no matter you think to be isolated from AI you are not.
Register here for an engaging though provoking hour.