Can the Machine Learning Monster take over our Souls?

Let’s face it.

Google, Facebook, Tesla, Amazon, Fintech, and scores of others in that order, have all rubbed off their magical pixie dust of algorithms over each other.

So much so, that it is continuously breeding revolutionary technology, one binary step at a time in increasing levels of complexity that is slowly but surely replacing our everyday jobs and streams of revenue as we know them.

We only have to look over our shoulder at the most recent prediction of the automotive industry which bodes the fact that conventionally designed vehicles will soon be replaced by driverless ones that are fully automated, a la Tesla.

At the heart of it all, the numerous benefits to having machine learning that fuels myriad inventions and automated programmes however cannot be understated.

For me, being a creative writer/director in advertising, I am already exposed to its dynamic role in email marketing and social media. This is a widespread journey across an entire CRM universe: applying the process of studying consumer patterns to emails, building ‘personas’ of their customers based on their collective likes and preferences, attitudes and social behaviours, identifying trends, tracking their hot spots in visiting links on social media sites, and responding to them in real time with offers or wish fulfilment techniques that surprise, satisfy and delight their wants, even before they know them!

All of which frighteningly enough, amounts to an almost ominous Big Brother Spy approach for future commercial conquest and assured ROIs.

But to backtrack a bit: machine learning, simply put, is data analysis at work, replicating analytical thinking. By learning the very pattern of data using algorithms, it allows computers to arrive at their own insights, without being programmed externally.

Notice, I use the word ‘own insights’, and that’s a fairly big deal. The question to ask is, will there be a stage in the very near future, much like what we had a glimpse of in Wall-E and Terminator combined, where the ‘Digital Whatevercalypse’ becomes so utterly transformed to think, act, and invent that they are also capable of creating their own race of cyborgs?

That means pretty much damn well anything and everything we can ever think of, from taking over all our jobs to running the groceries for us to deciding what morning juice we need to wake up to, depending on our mood. Short of telling us to sleep outside the bedroom door, while they take their rightful place on the bed!

But I digress a bit here. Notice that in those two paragraphs above, I didn’t mention feeling anywhere. And insights that are arrived at, by and large, through rationally arrived patterns, also need to rely on feeling or pure emotion to interpret an ‘insight’ in its purest form, especially when it comes to creativity and the arts.

I have to give some form of kudos though to Getty Images who most recently have done a revolutionary Image Search algorithm that aims to make the process of image search a big boon to the creative industry.

Here’s the moot point: It’s almost unthinkable to think of an algorithm that can paint a Sunflowers classic by Van Gogh or reproduce the sheer artistic shock of dementia in the Scream by Edvard Munch. Simply because right at the soul of those paintings, were emotion fuelled insights that later translated itself spontaneously into those masterpieces.

And therein lies the paradox of it all.

At best, Machine Learning and AI-fuelled artistic monsters may even come to about 75% of recreating it. Not spontaneously creating a big ass movement like Impressionism or Pointillism or even generate a whole new maverick field of study like how Psychology would have been fuelled by Freud and Jung. Think about that for a second.

The way I see it (and here’s where the sparring starts and the fists fly up in debate), it seems that Machine Learning and AI so far can capture or recreate the body of something… not the soul of it.

Yes, not the soul of creation.

Let the Debate Begin.