The AI that reflected.
Final part: (If you missed the first part, it’s here)
Insight Overload and how you will be seen by AI
Diversity across culture, gender, upbringing and outlook is vital as AI evolves. There simply are not enough women in technology at the moment and this will create a substantial issue as technology takes an ever more personal involvement in running our lives. The gender balance in AI currently runs at 85% male to 15% female. While this could be put down to the broader problem of male bias in the technology industry, it needs to be addressed so that the algorithms that are created do not present a similar gender bias. AI is already used to filter job applications and provide character assessments. If these assessments are built on biased objective functions, then once again AI is starting off in the wrong direction. We need to make sure that decisions made by machines do not incorporate conscious or unconscious biases from their creators. Much work needs to be done to understand our own human biases first, as we cannot work to prevent behaviours we, as individuals and as a society, cannot see.
The importance of this diversity grows even further because soon AI will grow beyond number crunching and playing games, and start to become more integrated into our own human cognitive functions. For this to happen, a new language will need to be created that allows AI to communicate rapidly and impartially with us. Indeed, if we are to end up with the sorts of brain-enhancing chips in our heads currently envisaged, this will need to be an absolute imperative so that the correct signals can be given to the brain in the correct language without room for misinterpretation. If these chips provide information and analysis seamlessly, there might be no way to know whether the thought has come from you, or from the computer. Given recent events with the global cyberattacks on the Windows operating system, building an AI language that prioritises humanity in all its diversity will be imperative.
And this is where creativity, authors, writers and the book industry come in.
We know that we humans views the world is through the language of stories. From a simple conversation opener like: “What’s happened to you!?” through “How are you?” to “Tell me something about yourself”, most of our conversation openers are gambits to elicit a story in response. We like stories. And we like them because they give us an emotional context to the information that is being told to us. As humans, we think with our hearts and our bodies as much as with our heads (“gut feel”, love, fear, stress etc). Stories give us a way to communicate information in a way that we can interpret, remember and recall. “Boy meets girl, and drowns” is a good synthesis of Titanic, but it does not communicate the details and context of the story which are fundamental to understanding it.
As we are evolving as humans, so is our storytelling. We started in the Oral Tradition which could be described as one to one (or 1:1). With the invention of writing, storytelling grew to 1: a few. With the invention of film, it grew to 1: quite a few. Television grew it to 1: many, and the internet confused everything by making it a quantum state of both 1:1 again, and 1: absolutely everybody.
With each evolution of the medium, the storytelling structures evolve. Poems, novels, plays, screenplays, games, interactive fiction — all have different language nuances, and when AI starts to talk to us, we need to invent a new language so that it communicate with us in ways we all understand without ambiguity. Initial example of AI’s creativity such as Google’s Deep Dream are viewed with humour at conferences, and familiarity with LSD users, but could it be that we are seeing the first forms of what the computer is trying to say? Like the ‘tea-cup stains’ language that was described so well in the recent movie Arrival, how would we know if the machine is thinking if its output is not in any recognisable human understanding of what language is?
And it doesn’t stop there.
If we are looking to create a sentient technology, it will be able to communicate how it views us — its creator. As a species, we have never had a non-human species analyse us. We have explored the mind through MRI scans, philosophy and all sorts of neuroscience, but this is something different as the analysis will not only be made, but interpreted by AI. It might be able to describe our potential, our limitations….and even our evolutionary potential. Are we actually using 10% of our brain? Do we think with our heart and body as much as with our brain? Are there dimensions around us which we have filtered out in favour of survival mechanisms, but that AI can open up to us?
Looking at your mirror reflection is known to have a psychological impact — one used from self-awareness exercises to treating phantom limbs. AI has the potential to provide a new sort of mirror, one that could describe the future of our evolution based on what it sees. Linking technology to one’s brain to provide augmented senses could free us up to focus on more creative and insightful traits, freed from more mechanical acquisition of information.
At this point, you might be thinking that all this is dizzying future talk, but in many ways we are already well down this road. My grandmother who lived to 92, was 100% deaf. Hearing aids did not work, so she was an early adopter of Cochlear implants that link directly into the brain. She could hear again. She got to talk to her great-grandchildren, to communicate and connect with the world. The emotional impact of this is intense. A new dimension opens up for the individual. If you haven’t already seen this impact, have a look at this video of a 29-year old as her Cochlear is switched on for the first time. What other dimensions might exist that we were simply not aware of until AI switched them on for us? What insights can be achieved if we are given the cerebral equivalent of the wheel?
Information Overload has already challenged our emotional and cognitive capacities, and this can be countered by building up our resilience and self-awareness. However we are likely to enter a new era — let’s call it Insight Overload — as breakthroughs like e=mc2, the Higgs Boson and gravitional waves in black hole mergers, become daily occurrences, and we get the insight that this new phase will challenge our role as a species, not just as individuals.
Our species has never been more under threat from thinking as self-centred individuals. Through scientific research we have dissected enough bodies to know *what* we are. Perhaps the challenge we should prepare for is that AI is about to hold up a mirror to show us insights into *who* we are. Given our experiences with Information Overload in the past couple of decades, we need to make sure we are able to grow within ourselves, to understand our diversity and our values as a species, so that when Insight Overload arrives, the gap between who we think we are, and who we are revealed to be is narrow enough for us to evolve intelligently.
If you made it this far, thank you! Please share out to other like-minded folk.