We are on the brink of a world of intensely sophisticated artificial intelligence. Unprecedented in its ability to change mankind in ways that humans are incapable of imagining now. Woefully under-prepared to handle tomorrow, both physically and emotionally. Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is changing our lives faster than our ability to understand, manage, and govern. We are the creators of AI; but soon, if not now, AI will become our masters.
This may sound like the premise from some futuristic apocalyptic film like Terminator or 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it is not. You may think these words are designed to scare you. But they are not. There has been an ongoing battle between humans and AI. A battle that has changed our lives, in subtle ways. It is not a new one, as most people have conjectured. It has gone on for decades. But it has only been in the last 10 years where AI has truly begun to manifest its mastery of our lives in real measurable ways. The simplest and best example of this is with Google Search.
There is not one person on earth that uses the Internet who has not used Google Search to help them find an answer to a question. To explore an idea. They open a browser, go to the Google site, begin to type in their question, and Google AI auto-magically begins to fill in their question before they have typed out a complete sentence. How cool is that?!?
AI looks inside our minds guesses at what we are looking to find, and presents us with an idea. In most cases the idea Google suggests is the one we accept with a simple hit of the return button on the keyboard. AI subtly influences us, nudges us, towards its response of what it believes is right. Our ability to reason is subdued and AI have enslaved us with an efficiency of productivity. We have a new master.
As a society we must proactively choose who masters whom. But sadly, today we do not. Today, it is passively left in the hands of an elite few. Those that run the largest of large companies. Ones like Google and Facebook. The documentary Do You Trust This Computer? is a start at this dialogue. It examines the staggering amounts of data collected (500MB per person per day), how it’s interpreted and fed back to us through apps (Google Search, Facebook apps), and how intelligent devices and targeted ads impact our lives.
The film explores the rise of data analytics and machine learning and its power to fundamentally transform society, including elections (look no further than the privacy scandal surrounding political advisory firm Cambridge Analytica) to medical diagnostics to battlefield weapons.
This film should be watched by all… from our children through to our grandparents, from those on the left to ones on the right, both men and women alike could benefit from watching this film. Do You Trust This Computer? ultimately poses more questions than it answers. But that is okay, because it is a start to addressing one of the fundamental questions of our time, “Who will master whom?”