Bender, David, Marvin, Cylons, Chappie, Major, KITT. All these are characters that can elicit a sense of joy, hope, comfort but also caution. They also are all artificially intelligent.
Story by: Sunjay Jude Fernandes
As we move into an era of machines capable of learning from their surroundings, the assistance we receive makes us more accepting of their intelligence. But as they become an integral part our lives, mere acceptance is not enough. So where do we go from here? One way is hope. Hope that with the development of AI, our lives become easier, more comfortable. The other is caution, and possibly fear of becoming too dependent, or just not intelligent enough to stay relevant in the future.
Let’s try hope.
Imagine a day where you are woken up, served breakfast, driven to work, comfortably seated at a mostly automated workstation, fed lunch and brought back home. You arrive to a warm meal, get pampered and put to bed. Then, you wake up the next day and the next, to the same. What did you do? Well, mostly nothing, because you don’t know how to cook or drive. You are also probably irrelevant at work, so now you need to find purpose somewhere else. Let’s say you learn how to paint. But, who are you painting for? Do people even paint anymore? Maybe you can learn to play an instrument. Let’s try the guitar. But how do you even know what a guitar is if you’ve never seen one, at least not in person? You’ve only heard that once upon a time we lived on the blue planet where people painted, made music and even used three-ply tissues themselves. While all of the above doesn’t sound too bad comfort-wise, it does question how we perceive human purpose and meaning.
I did say hope. Due to its infinite computational power, AI could add, say, 25 more ways how to use the Kamasutra, which sounds incredible for an AI lover. But this goes far beyond the book itself. This is a mere symbol of the possibilities for the future AI could create. Being enhanced for instance, not genetically but technologically, would give one the ability to plug into an ever-expanding universe of data where we no longer have a need to have AI separately but within us. We could be in a world where we are the AI. But, does this mean we lose our humanity? Not if we ask ourselves what it means to be human, what it mean to be yourself? How to be happier, smarter, more creative or even love better — you teach yourself all of this already. And what makes us all different is still in us. We all use that same brand of phone in different ways.
How about co-existence with technology with a free will to embrace? Technological advances have governed our lives throughout, in the food we eat, vegan or carnivore, in the clothes we wear, hand or machine spun, in our accommodation, mansion or tent. Weighing hope vs fear of AI is a complex issue. Not because it doesn’t exist, but because we don’t and never will fully understand what it means. With the smart phone we all own, we can’t deny that it’s enriched our lives. But, we also can’t deny it’s had unexpected outcomes, like the invention of selfie sticks.
Developing, learning, adapting. That’s what we do as humans and that’s what we expect the AI to do eventually. Not all of us wake up with plans of world domination. Similarly, no AI is the same. All this being said, we still have time to think about it, to choose to develop and embrace. It’s not a dark world, there will be light even when we have fully developed AI. Light for the selfie stick wielding robot on vacation with its handy guide to the galaxy!