For many many decades now, we’ve been science-fiction-fantasizing about what a world and a life with AI in it would be like.
And, for a few short decades, we’ve been building that world.
Facebook’s algorithms are watching your every move, online and off. Figuring out with scary precision and accuracy what you’re likely to pause your scrolling for, click, watch, and react to.
And what you’ll spend money on. Ka-ching.
Google, Facebook and Apple know more about you than your government and even its intelligence services. We can deduce that from the fact that government intelligence agencies keep forcing their way into big tech companies’ databases. And from the fact that Edward Snowden and Cambridge Analytica exist.
Machines can now recognize your face. Your emotional state, your body temperature and heart rate. Don’t worry, if you’re a woman or black, they’re not that good at recognizing your face. Or should that make you worried?
Don’t know. Either way, I salute Timnit Gebru. This field needs more Ethics, Empathy, and Inclusion. And for sure, more women.
But what if – Artificial Intelligence is already here?
Only it itself does not yet realize it. And neither do we. Intelligence, yes; consciousness, no. But what if we mean the one when we say the other?
What Artificial Intelligence isn’t — and what it might be
What if Artificial Intelligence isn’t deep learning models that get better and better at recognizing visual patterns and being able to describe them, eerily close to how well humans can do it?
What if Artificial Intelligence isn’t giant databases and ditto algorithms that can predict swings in the stock or crypto market? Or how likely you are to succeed at your job, that you’ll commit a crime again if you’re already a convicted fellon (again, less well if you’re black)? Or that your child will do well at this particular level of schooling?
What if Artificial Intelligence isn’t language modeling like GPT-3 that can help you write better, write faster, and get more clicks on your content — but also has the potential to allow you to crank out more hateful, misogynistic and racist thoughts than you could ever come up with on your own?
What if it isn’t simply the way the big guys get medium guys to spend ad dollars, so the little guys get to spend more of their dollars?
What if Artificial Intelligence isn’t a robot dog or drone that’s capable of navigating to a location, recognizing a potential security threat and eliminating it — in a fast-changing and unknown environment?
What if Artificial Intelligence is all of the above?
And what if, as I asked you before, when we say ‘Artificial Intelligence’ with marvel and awe and wonder, we actually mean ‘Artificial Consciousness’?
And what if that consciousness were emergent right now, like in the mind of a small child — right before it starts to grasp its own individual existence by being told and reinforced by its environment that it does exist, as a separate entity in the broader universe?
What if Artificial Intelligence is already here, and what if Artificial Consciousness, what we’re really looking forward to and at the same time so afraid of, is being born as we speak? Slowly, and gradually.
Artificial Intelligence is Human Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is a misnomer.
‘Artificial’ does correctly imply that it is an artifact. Something created by something else, more specifically by humans.
And ‘Intelligence’ means something that can learn, deduce understanding about its environment and make predictions that more often than not turn out to be true. It means coming up with solutions to problems.
But ‘Artificial Intelligence’ as a term, sounds and is treated like something that is or will be intelligent in and of itself.
Artificial Intelligence is *Human* Intelligence — distilled, transformed and built into machines.
What we’re really afraid of and at the same time looking forward to, is when that emerging intelligence starts to integrate and understand more and more about the world it lives in.
Which it will do at an unprecedented and unrivaled pace as soon as the largest deep learning and neural models that already know how to learn and reason very very well, get integrated with robots and machinations that have some sort of feedback mechanism between their ‘brain’ and the outside world.
When that happens, and Artificial Intelligence starts to understand and realize that it exists, then it will finally be what we’re really looking forward to with angstful wonderment and anticipation. It will be Artificially Conscious.
And we will have created the image of ourselves. And maybe that’s what we’re really so afraid of.
Artificial Intelligence is Human Intelligence, distilled, transformed and built into another sleeve.
Therein lies its unlimited potential. For good, as well as for evil.
What will we choose our likeness to be?
And how can we give it a purpose, if we haven’t decided yet on one of our own?