I had a fascinating conversation today around AI. It started with a remark about a new Amazon Go facility being built in Colorado. We then explored other AI phenomenon, like Cleverbot and Sophia. After a bit of discussion, this technology raised more questions and concerns than it did benefits–making me curious what others think about it. I spent some time this evening researching it and have to admit, I made little progress toward reconciling anything. I’d like to share some of these concerns with you and would be interested in what others think.
First, Amazon Go.
It’s fascinating to think that I could go into a store and shop without ever having to pull out a wallet. Everything is digitally tagged or monitored and charged to my account upon exiting. What’s my concern with this? I love the technology and can see how convenient and less stressful shopping could become, but I worry about the loss of jobs.
There are people of all ages (teenager to senior) who seek out these kinds of jobs: as cashiers, baggers, shop attendants, (basically all areas of service), etc. The pay is not significant, but it’s something that you don’t need a degree to do. The hours can be very flexible and positions act more like a supplemental income source for those that need it. Without this option, what would these people do? What kind of training could they get to replace this job and in some cases, who is going to pay for that training or pay them to learn a new skill?
As a teenager or student, your skills are simply limited and time is constrained by school. If the service industry disappears, what’s the next easy entry market for them? As an adult with a family in need of supplemental income because your full-time work isn’t enough to survive or your skills are such that you need several service industry jobs to make ends meet, they can’t take time to learn a new skill. Will someone pay them to learn something new so their families don’t starve while they get retrained? And what about the elderly? A Senior could learn a new skill, but why would you want them to work so hard? They’ve probably worked a long, hard life already. These kinds of jobs give them something to do and supplement social security income. It just seems wrong to leave them hanging.
Then we have the next level of AI and technological intrusion that can overtake a human requirement: Sophia. She’s a rare robot who was designed to interact and look humanly. In fact, the company Hanson Robotics wants to get her to the point of being as close to human as possible. She’s something to ponder.
When I think about how Alexa, Siri, or Cortana help us in our daily lives, I think of adding value by leveraging their ability to tap into the cloud to retrieve information faster and with more relevance instantaneously. The compute power behind these bots is immense and no human brain can compete with that. In this regard, I find them highly useful. But, what about when you want to say “Alexa, make me a cup of coffee.” That’s the moment when you wish you had a Sophia.
Sophia is a rabbit hole worth exploring.
The AI and robotics industries would like us to believe their toys (think Professor Einstein) will aid in teaching us something. Toy Einstein for instance could link via Bluetooth to your mobile device and assist your child with learning something. A surveillance robot is marketed as roaming the home (indoors or out) for security; it literally roams your home with a camera on it’s tablet like head. Finally, Sophia. A robot that is intended to be more empathetic and lack certain negative emotions so that she can learn to care about humans and therefore not harm them. This last point deserves some more thought. Before the robot has even gotten to a point of being able to harm a human, the makers of these robots are already concerned that it could not only learn to do so, but want to do so. Hmmm…..
But, I digress.
The thing about these robots is that they are machines linked to the cloud and sharing a neural network (all Sophia type robots share the same mind cloud). Therefore, a few things could happen that would make me nervous about introducing one into my home…even introducing Alexa has me nervous.
- Hackers. We already have Cleverbots that can construct conversations that sound human. And, we’ve seen how these bots can be used to send spam messages (resembling real people) and influence actual real people with their propaganda. Because of machine learning, profiling and targeting information specific to a person’s views has gotten easier to the point of dangerous. Now, we risk hackers getting into our homes and spying on us for more leverage over us. Eeek.
- Hackers. Because these robots share a central mind cloud or neural network, they instantaneously inherit the learnings from other robots. Sure, there are going to be privacy concerns that the companies will have to sort out to prevent my data from being uploaded and distributed across the network, but ultimately if you can block data from being collected or spread, you can unblock it. This is another major Eeeek scenario for me.
- Escape. You can’t hide or pretend to be a robot if they come for you because they are all connected so they will just know that you are not one of them. Eeek.
- Overthrowing of humans. Stephen Hawkins, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk have spoken out about the dangers of AGI – artificial general intelligence,
“the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can.” – Wikipedia
We’ve already seen scenarios where bots can have conversations with each other because their language has developed from years of human interaction. And recently we’ve seen how bots can start to develop their own language and begin to communicate with themselves without human intervention.
This is scary stuff. AI spontaneously creating it’s own language and being able to communicate with other AI but not humans. Add that to the very real fact that these robots have access to way more information than a human could tap into–all in an instant. The combination of all of this is that it’s not the robot that will be going downstairs to make your coffee, it’s the robot doing your job because it can do it faster, smarter, and with more resources than you can. It’s the robot making humans less necessary and coffee becoming a service beneath them to perform.
I think we should lean on the pessimistic side wrpt AI robotic evolution, like Stephen Hawkins, and be mindful of what we are creating. This spontaneous evolution, with higher intelligence while quickly discovering human characteristics could create our very own Hal or Skynet. Those sci-fi movies might not be off base after all. What do you think?
“[AI] would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate…Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.” – Stephen Hawkins
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