Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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Tech Talk

Your phone’s extinction-level intelligence

9/6/2017

techAutomation is an incredible gift to modern society. The most menial of tasks have been passed off to soulless robots and machines. No more drilling holes in license plates or tightening screws on car chassis after car chassis. While a godsend to industrial production, automation has also killed hundreds of thousands of jobs and become a political landmine in the modern economy. So, what do you suppose the effects will be when artificial intelligence comes to fruition?

For those who don’t understand the difference, artificial intelligence is automated devices and machines that also have the ability to make decisions about their actions instead of following a single programmed routine. Artificial intelligence has all kinds of practical applications from computer programs that could decipher human actions and anticipate next moves, to devices that autonomously scan human bodies, diagnose and prescribe courses of treatment without ever interacting with a physician. Both of those advancements in computerization would completely flip the table on two of the biggest sectors of the economy: personal security and healthcare.

Still several years from revolutionizing any industries, artificial intelligence is here, and the tech industry is in an all-out race to monetize and blanket the market in proprietary AI. Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook have been dabbling in personal assistants and texting services equipped with AI programming, but nothing in the order of mapping users lives, anticipating their needs and making decisions on their behalf. But if any of those companies have their way, within a few short years every smartphone, tablet, computer, car, refrigerator, house and more will become our personalized servants, running our lives and sharing our personal information back to their manufacturers.

Frightening as that may sound, it is nothing compared to what Tesla CEO Elon Musk is preaching. As an early investor in AI pioneering firm DeepMind, Musk was quoted as saying AI will play a part in the demise of mankind. Jokes aside, Musk is predicting a full-on Terminator-2-Skynet extinction event at the hands of our smart devices. To Musk, the AI race is being held between entrepreneurs and tech firms who likely have good intentions but “produce something evil by accident.” Don’t believe it? Facebook just recently shutdown an AI experiment because it created its own indecipherable language and started conversing amongst itself.

Now living in a world that laughs in the face of climate scientists and medical scientists, what’s the harm in laughing at a computer scientist, right? Well climate science is a slow burn that will likely take generations to unfold. Ignoring medical advice and refusing immunizations generally only affects the refuser, but time and again, foolish moves with technology have shown to take down companies and political campaigns while outright ruining lives.

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Musk’s dark prognostication of the high-tech end of days wouldn’t be death by a thousand paper cuts. It would be an immediate and ruthless eradication conducted at the hands of a half-baked, militant AI system. Forget what you know about Skynet, Ultron or the Matrix; self-aware robots may be able to make decisions, but they won’t rationalize worth or sentiment in the process. A conscious military drone that passes judgement on a person or population won’t hesitate to carry out genocide (another Musk nightmare circulating within the industry).

Unlike consumer behavior or tech purchases, there is little you can do to stop the AI wave from crashing into our world. But Musk’s horror story should be fuel for you to watch your own tech habits. Why are you giving away all your personal information to Facebook’s “M” assistant or Google’s Allo? Robots are your friend, until they’re not. Act accordingly. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter@PatBoBomb.

 

 

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