2018.04.05 Artificial Stupidity

I bought some placemats online. For the next three months, every time I was on a website hosting advertisements, hello placemats.

I get how this happened, but although we are talking about Artificial Intelligence optimization in marketing, it seems that what I was experiencing could better be described as Artificial Stupidity.

Had I been in a physical store with a human being, I am sure that person would have tempted me with plates or napkins in colors matching my new placemats or utensils taking my taste into account. A person buying e.g. Paisley placemats might be assumed to have different preferences than somebody buying monochrome geometric patterns.

But that was not what the advertisers wanted to show me. How many identical placemats does “Big Brother” think one family needs?

This experience came back to my mind while reading this interesting “where are we on AI and where are we going?” piece.

According to Kai Fu Lee, (“the founder of the Beijing-based Sinovation Ventures, is ranked #1 in technology in China by Forbes.”) we are not very far and - unless we make some significant changes in political thinking - where we are going is to a not a very nice place.

The article doesn’t mention that the intelligence built into the computers may be faulty and discriminatory. We know this is already an issue, but there is no “ombudsman” institution charged with ascertaining that the machines don’t perpetuate the known or unknown biases of their coders. “Systemic discrimination” is already getting a new and ominous meaning as the data on which we have trained the systems come from sources where we know for example racial profiling is an issue.

If perpetuating racism is not even beyond stupidity, I don't know what it is.

When people with deep knowledge of the subject matter, Stephen Hawkins and Elon Musk among them, have envisioned a dystopian future if AI tools are implemented uncritically, wouldn’t it be a great subject to discuss for politicians before this brave new world is on us?

"With successes come new concerns and challenges based on the effects of those technologies on people’s lives. These concerns include the safety and trustworthiness of AI technologies, the fairness and transparency of systems, and the intentional as well as inadvertent influences of AI on people and society.

On another front, while AI promises new capabilities and efficiencies, the advent of these new technologies has raised understandable questions about potential disruptions to the nature and distribution of jobs. While there is broad agreement that AI advances are poised to generate great wealth, it remains uncertain how that wealth will be shared broadly."

The above quote is from Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society - and while they write like this, Stanford still conducts seminars for board members that don't touch on Corporate Social Responsibility. It doesn't really look like we are all on the same page here.

Modeling the predictable economic consequences of an ever bigger share of the industrialized world’s population living on minimum wage could be an excellent job for a computer – much more useful than trying to sell me things from Design Within Reach just because I linked to their website in a previous blog post.

Or one can just relax with Dan Brown’s Origin and hope for the best.

Praying probably won’t work. If there is somebody listening, “with stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain.” Even that of the artificial kind.