Artificial intelligence (AI) will quickly affect all industries. AI software and algorithms are rapidly improving and their possibilities are becoming more and more concrete. And if we went a little too fast? By James Buchanan – Strategy Director, Razorfish London
Ubiquitous this year at South by Southwest, artificial intelligence has all the attributes of a great revolution announced. His potential is a little more “real” every day, from the computer that beats the best Go players to the autonomous car.
During this event, in which I participated alongside 3 other experts, I had the opportunity to discuss the impact of AI-powered services at the individual level. In the past five years, intelligent objects and services have been tested in every aspect of our lives. From dating to delivery, through finance and sports, start-ups now anticipate the least of our problems and offer us more and more personalized services using AI.
A new way of seeing the world
Under the guise of being practical, these services change the way we think about the world, our way of thinking and our own identity. What value do we give to our free will? Are we ready to sacrifice our autonomy? With the emergence of machines that are learning, our world is becoming more and more disturbing and strange, and it is legitimate to wonder about its evolution.
It is now necessary to talk about it, while these tools are still at our service. Nobody wants to become the simple extension of flesh and bone of an algorithm. Innovation has always changed the way we think: what we create influences us in return.
Tools that can not be totally controlled
The case of artificial intelligence is unique. It is materialized by tools that have their own intelligence and are not totally controlled. In pursuit of their internal logic, they improve in contact with millions of users, their growing influence with their intelligence.
These services seem useful because they solve our problems, reveal what is best in us and minimize our shortcomings. They give us almost superpowers. Yet it is with a critical eye that we should consider this situation. In this algorithmic future, what matters most?
Having the opportunity to share my point of view is rather an accomplishment for who, like me, grew up in a small town. But what about a future where the AI will never allow me to meet those who do not agree with me? What can I think of a financial service that, by putting in the first place what it knows to be my long-term interests, will make it difficult for me to make impulse decisions? In the end, can we sincerely believe that “the market” will take care of us?
The easy option is to focus on the results: enriched customers, commitment volume, satisfaction index … Simple data because they already correspond to the companies’ objectives. They also provide clarity on the variables by which the algorithms improve, the reflection of a scientific culture in which many tech-entrepreneurs have grown up.
But leaving aside any security concerns should worry us a little bit more. Even renowned scientists like Stephen Hawkins admit that artificial intelligence may soon escape us …
Another word for “result” is “end”, and we know that it does not justify the means. Enriching a client is not a valid argument if, on the way, you are damaging another aspect of your life, or that of someone else, in an unpredictable way. Then there is the risk of becoming addicted. What would happen if all these services suddenly became inaccessible? Would we be delivered to ourselves? It is a question of ethics which poses in hollow the IA …
Give priority to teaching rather than automation
Fortunately, there is an alternative. What if instead of focusing on the results we help people to become a little more themselves? By encouraging reflection and self-awareness, we would give priority to teaching rather than automation. We would give people the tools to develop their natural skills instead of trying to replace them. We would probably spend more time thinking about the role these services play in society rather than what they bring to the isolated individual.
In short, by doing less we can encourage others to do more and act ethically and responsibly. But this will not happen by chance, we must go through a deliberately chosen path. In the governing bodies, where the subject must be put on the agenda of political agendas, that to the citizens, we must make sure that consciences awaken to these questions. Let’s sit down at a table and start today the discussion of what AI can offer, not only to the people we are, but to those we want to become.