Comprehending different Facets of Artificial Intelligence

“To erase the line between man and machine is like obscuring the line between men and god[1]

Ex Machina, Sci-fi Motion Picture, 2015

(This is Part One of a two-part post by Tantu Vardhan)

This piece of work is going to be about ‘perspectives’. I am going to use this space to speculate and discuss the perceptions, emotions and thoughts, which people from different walks of life belonging to various timelines share about the next abled thinking creation/innovation to set foot on this planet, ‘Artificial Intelligence’.

This essay consists of an amalgam of thoughts which an artist or a scientist or a lawyer and like many more might have to spare about their new cognitively abled and equally efficient friend/nemesis i.e. AI.  The best part of this mixture of thoughts from the varied set of individuals is that they are going to be in the form of answers for their own questions. These answers might be an introspective analysis, a form of denial to face reality or even a product of collective happiness for coming face to face with Artificial Intelligence.

I. Lock, Stock and Barrel of AI:

When Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage invented the world’s first computer, their “Analytical Engine” became the evolutionary progenitor of a new class of human extensions — machines that think. Here, humankind saw these machines as super tools which could be used to better the standards of life and efficiency of work. A generation later, Alan Turing picked up where they left off and, in laying the foundations of artificial intelligence with his Turing Test[2], famously posed the techno-philosophical question of whether a computer could ever enjoy strawberries and cream or compel you to fall in love with it[3]. He poses a very tricky question of whether a woman should have a fragmented view over this invention and view it as an extended tool which can think or have a holistic view in which she perceives this new invention of hers as a part of her and try building a personal bond with it.

From its very outset, this new branch of human-machine evolution made it clear that any answer to these questions would invariably alter how we answer the most fundamental questions of what it means to be, survive and excel as a human being[4]. This is exactly what we are going to explore in this piece of work. This exploration might lead us to answers. Answers that are strewn with a handful of common threads, a major one being the idea that artificial intelligence isn’t some futuristic abstraction but a palpably present reality with which we’re already living.

II. Vis-a-Vis with A.I:

***All the individuals featuring in this part are works of fiction and are used for only for the purpose of broadening the scope and increasing the level of academic discussion.

**The tone of the language and the perspective used is going to be in the first person.

  1. An artistic realisation: an artist’s perspective.

(These are recordings of an ageing artist’s inner voice coming to face the reality of Artificial Intelligence.).

I would like to look into the many elements that make a machine useful, say from cooking porridge to switching on the radio, that work seamlessly thanks to an invisible mesh of connected human intelligence. In my prime time, these were the first tools of a Rube Goldberg machine of micro-expertise that makes it possible for the energy in a distant oil field to power the stove built in a foreign factory out of components made by scattered manufacturers, and help me ultimately cook my food.

To uphold my notion, that magnificent vintage allegory of how everything is connected. I would like to explain why I see artificial intelligence not as an antagonist in a techno-dystopian future but as an indelible and fruitful part of our past and present.

“My attitude results from my almost absolute faith in the reliability of the vast supercomputer I’m permanently plugged into, the human brain.”

It was built with the intelligence of thousands of generations of human minds, and they’re still working at it now. All that human intelligence remains alive, in the form of the supercomputer of tools, theories, technologies, crafts, sciences, disciplines, customs, rituals, rules of thumb, arts, systems of belief, superstitions, workarounds, and observations that we call Global Civilisation[5].

Global Civilisation is something we humans created, though none of us really know-how. It’s out of the individual control of any of us — a seething synergy of embodied intelligence that we’re all plugged into. None of us understands more than a tiny sliver of it, but by and large, we aren’t paralysed or terrorised by that fact[6].  We still live in it and make use of it. We feed it problems — such as “I want some food” — and it miraculously offers us solutions using means that we don’t understand. On a similar note, I feel A.I should not be perceived as a threat to mankind, as we’ve been living happily using intelligence for thousands of years. In other words, I feel A.I, would be just another intrinsic detail in a painting of scenery which no-one understands the essence of- but when removed, the painting loses its real artistic touch.

2. An entrepreneurial dream: a social entrepreneur’s perspective

(Conversations with a millennial social entrepreneur who believes in using this technology to change the world)

Do I perceive development in AI, as a catalyst for sustainability and growth of my Ideas? Answer to this question would be a big yes. In the current startup universe, there’s still a lot of chatter about changing the world, an objective that has become so cliché—and ridiculed—that it’s easy to forget that those voicing this desire genuinely, vehemently believe it. However, I consider myself as somebody who belongs to the increasingly endangered tribe of public idealists, who considers how this “hive mind” of semi-artificial intelligence[7] could provide a counterpoint to some of our worst human tendencies and amplify our theory on paper, the collective potential for good and convert it into actual practicality.

We all know how flawed humans are. How greedy, irrational, and limited in our ability to act collectively for the common good. We’re in danger of wrecking the planet. Does anyone in their best sense see the current state of humanity as an endpoint to evolution? Well, I don’t. I see evolution in this new technology, Artificial Intelligence. I see a lot of scope and character in this innovation which can act, think and perceive like human beings.

 I have always believed that intelligence doesn’t reach its full power in small units. Every additional connection and resource can help expand its power. A person can be smart, but there are high chances for a society to always be smarter than him[8]. This is the whole essence of brainstorming ideas for attaining complex solutions. In a way, I feel AI is just another manifestation of the collective unit of knowledge that the society processes, but served through unconventional means.

I seriously feel “Us versus the machines” is a wrong debate. I believe there’s only one machine that counts which is to work towards a better life. Like it or not, we’re all – us and our machines – becoming part of it: an immensely connected brain. Using this logic, intelligent machines of the future wouldn’t destroy humans. Instead, they would tap into the unique contributions that humans make help in creating an idealistic future by the intermingling of human and machine capabilities[9].

The social entrepreneur in me sees a high scope of opportunity at the point of convergence of this marvellous technology and an affordable market for solving people’s problems[10]. We are already seeing the development in the potential use of semi-AI work in the form of titanium implants in our joints, pacemakers and hearing aids, devices that redefine and extend our minds and bodies. 

If you’re a scientist, computers can help you extend your brainpower to create well beyond what was possible a few decades back. New problems that once were impossible to contemplate, or even formulate, come around every day. These machines are only going to make it simple for us. On that note, I would like to conclude that the pace of human progress is directly correlated to our alliance with digital machines and this is the best way of reinventing our species.


References

[1] “Ex Machina: Film Review”. The Hollywood Reporter.

[2] Buchanan, Bruce G. (2005). “A (Very) Brief History of Artificial Intelligence

[3] Alan Turing (1950). Computing Machinery and Intelligence“.

[4] McCorduck, Pamela (2004), Machines Who Think (2nd ed.), Natick, MA: A. K. Peters, Ltd.

[5]Wallach, Wendell and Colin Allen. 2009. Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong (Oxford University Press: Oxford).

[6] Etzioni, Amitai; Etzioni, Oren (2016). “AI Assisted Ethics”. Ethics and Information Technology. 18: 149–156. doi:10.1007/s10676-016-9400-

[7] Inside OpenAI, Elon Musk’s Wild Plan to Set Artificial Intelligence Free Cade Metz, Wired.

[8] Haikonen, Pentti (2012), Consciousness and Robot Sentience, Singapore: World Scientific.

[9] “Machine Learning: A job killer?”. econfuture – Robots, AI and Unemployment – Future Economics and Technology.

[10] Brooks, Rodney (2014). “artificial intelligence is a tool, not a threat”

About the Author

Tantu Vardhn did his BBA LL.B. (Hons.) 2014 from Jindal Global Law School. During this time he was actively involved in the research and studies of various areas of law including corporate law, intellectual property, international trade law and more. Having invested himself in various activities from mooting to sports, Tantu was able to offer a unique insight on the advent of AI in our lives and its potential capabilities.  


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