Don’t fear Intelligent Machines: Work with Them…
With the popular works like ‘The Matrix’ or ‘The Terminator’, where the humans get replaced, enslaved or hunted to almost an extinction by their own creations, our deepest fears of technology taking over humans have time and again resurfaced. If you look back, from mythology to science fiction, human and machine have been often pitted against each other. This essay portrays that although technology can be intimidating and many of today’s skill sets, careers and business models will be challenged by the rise of the machines, there is no escaping them. As Gary Kasparov points out – “We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of our technology, and we must conquer those fears if we want to get the best out of our humanity.”
For eras, mankind has looked for ingenious ways to get rid of grueling manual labor and duties. We tamed animals, invented the wheel, crafted new tools and made novel machines. The successful inventions and adaptations have generated wealth, upgraded our lifestyle and constructed new opportunities. Machines can’t be separated from our daily lives. As a blogger and a self-claimed gadget freak, I have even forgotten the count of times I use Google or the Google translator for work. And what is it? “SMT” (Statistical Machine Translation)! Those of you who use online translation to catch the gist of a news article from a foreign newspaper will know that it is far from perfect. But we use our judgment and make sense out of it.
A century ago, when elevators became automated, many people were scared to go inside without an operator on-board? Do you recall the first time you took an elevator? Or take an instance of a public railway. In 1825, people thought that human bodies were simply not capable to withstand the traveling at a speed of thirty miles per hour! It took humans to take some time to get used to the technology but here we are! At the point of using driver less cars and isn’t it saying something?
Today, when we are living in a world on the cusp of the next industrial revolution and are witness to breakthrough advances like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) or nanotechnology, wondering if robots or machines are coming to steal our jobs can’t be far from our imagination. But is our fear real or baseless? Are machines really so bad? The answer is NO. Let’s explore some facts that would throw light into our assumptions. Since old times, humans have feared technology expansion, afraid that it would put them out of work. But it hasn’t.
It all depends on perspective. While one can see these changes as a humanoid robot replacing our existence, one might choose to see it as a hand that can guide us move forward than where we are. With the advent of antibiotics, many had complained about putting grave diggers out of work, but the invention of antibiotics was a great boon for mankind. Hence it doesn’t serve to romanticize the loss of jobs due to the modernization.
History has shown time after the time that technology paves a path and creates far more than it destroys for new industries, jobs and prosperity. We are forgetting that if robots can take over our existing jobs, many new are getting created. As Kasparov proposed, some of these new jobs, like a drone pilot or robotic surgeon, still need the operator to work together closely with the machine. The productive and profitable collaboration of human and machine is here to stay.
Google engineer Ray Kurzweil says that intelligent machines will enhance humans, not replace us.
As a Chess grand-master who has played the game against the machine, Garry Kasparov has mentioned his observation that machines are really good at taking on board huge amounts of information and making sense of it in a way that humans simply can’t do. But they have no perception or mindfulness. Machines were created to reduce our workload. They are mechanical and don’t have the capabilities to understand the situations and behave accordingly. They have a man-made intelligence. While humans can do anything original, machines can’t. They can’t think independently. They are programmed by humans and do as instructed. They can’t question their duties and just follow the orders.
Nowadays Machines with artificial intelligence prepare coffee, play games, even diagnose patients, carry out medical surgery and drive cars. But humans are superior when it comes to reasoning, originality, creativity, evaluating risks and using resources beyond limits to name a few.
As Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Chinese e-commerce site Baidu, puts it: “There’s a big difference between intelligence and sentience. Our software is becoming more intelligent, but that does not imply it is about to become sentient.”
Science and technology advancements always come with pros & cons. Like two sides of a coin, the fire that cook food can also burn down the house. With more and more machines replacing the physical job and getting over unskilled jobs, we will get more time to focus on exploring and elevating activities that bring us joy and satisfaction.
As IBM’s head of research, Guru Banavar, mentions, “AI will work with humans to solve pressing problems such as disease and poverty.”
Being a human is more than playing a game of chess or developing a skill like putting a hammer to the metal. We humans will still have plenty to do: for an instance painting a masterpiece or composing soulful music.
While discussing the technology and its implications on human life as species, we have always feared automation and then eventually accepted it. Although technology advancement may seem turbulent, we are living at the best time in human history where wonderful things are happening. We as species possess the strong human spirit and collective ability to adapt and grow.
I completely agree with this view of Kasparov as he urges us to not to hinder progress or fear machines: “We must speed them up. We must give them, and ourselves, plenty of room to grow. We must go forward, outward and upward.”
“So, I want all the people reading this article here to think that whether you want to live the rest of your years fearing the machines or be a part of a new day that is on the horizon! We are at the door of this unique opportunity to grow and evolve and it will be because of a lot of magnificent people like you, and some pretty incredible men who take us to the time where humans have never been taken before. Are you ready?”
Understanding the Fight Against Facial Recognition
The growth of Clearview AI as a startup focusing on facial recognition is momentous. That could be largely linked to their alliance with law enforcement agents that are using the platform widely. While there exists little to no regulation around how this kind of tech is used, that has not stopped business from booming for all the parties involved.
There are outcries against the privacy invasion that comes in the way of facial recognition too. Recently, a hack of the company brought fresh debates to the fore about how safe facial data can be when with keepers like that – and how such data will also be used.
Facial Recognition Isn’t Your Friend
Surveillance has always been a touchy subject. So that the state does not go beyond reasonable means in surveilling an individual, certain laws and regulations were made. This requires that even law enforcement agents obtain permission from the judiciary arm of government before they can put anyone under surveillance.
Even at that, this surveillance has to be proportionate.
None of such moves has been placed around facial recognition. Not on a large scale, at least.
Before the Clearview AI hack was reported, the company admitted to having more than 3 billion faces on record. That is more than a third of everyone on the planet as of this moment. Seeing as many countries have not even heard of the company, that is shocking that they would have that many faces on file.
Official statements from the company claim that it mines data from social media networks and other open-source platforms for its database. In other words, they can collect picture you posted on the internet to populate a database of facial recognition technology. The important part of this business is remembering that all of this is done without your giving them any express permission to take such advantages of your image rights.
Social media platforms like YouTube, Google, and Facebook have already reached out to this company with a cease and desist. That is a laudable move to protect users, but we are just seeing one side of a bad coin. Facebook itself runs in-house facial recognition software which you have to manually turn off.
Recalling how many scandals Facebook has gotten into in the previous decade alone, we do not know if they would honor any privacy requests from the users. Thus, those pictures you removed facial recognition access from could still be in the system for all that we know.
If these systems were as good as they are claimed to be, we might not have much against them. Instead, there is a huge bias against races and women. This is not a basic fault of the technology itself but how it was trained. After all, it can only adapt to the models that it has been trained with, of which there is a gross under-representation of the negatively affected population density.
Such can lead to cases of false positives or negatives. Depending on how you look at it and the prevalent situation, it is never good news.
Where Do We Go from Here?
San Francisco has banned the widespread use of technology in the city. This is a huge move
from the city that considers itself one of the biggest, if not the biggest, concentrated tech hub in the world. If they cannot make such brazen moves to defend how tech is used, they might as well be a serious part of the problem in the tech space.
Other states and cities are working on similar moves, but they are not working fast enough.
The need for a widespread ban right now is not for the hate of facial tech systems but the lack of a regulatory framework within which it works. If we do not have that, it is just a matter of time before everyone has a facial recognition system of their own and takes stalking to a whole new level.
That is not something we are willing to take. Till things improve, the fight against facial recognition will remain.