The Platform Wars – 5 The Intelligence Awakens – Human vs Machine

The Platform economy is changing the world as we know it. In the first 3 parts of the Platform Wars we discussed the rise of monopolies, emergence of new age disruptors, and the battle for protection of Intellectual Property.
The Platform economy is changing the world as we know it. In the last 4 installments of the series we reflected on the emerging conflict zones – Monopolistic Platforms (Big vs Small), Disruptive Business Models (New vs Old), Intellectual Property (Sharing vs Creating) and the hottest debate of 2018 – Data Privacy (Public vs Private). But these conflicts will pale in comparison, to the ethical, moral and legal dilemmas that societies will need to address, when the march of digital technology creates an Artificial Intelligence that is equal and superior in many ways to human intelligence. The Human vs Machine conflicts are inevitable and are visible on the horizon.

Ray Kurzweil, in his 2005 book “The Singularity is Near”, predicted that by 2020, a $1000 device would exceed the computational power of the human brain, and that by 2045, a $1000 device would exceed by a billion times, the computational power of all human brains on the planet! A milestone he called the Singularity.

In 2005, a year before the first iPhone launched, the first prediction sounded like Science Fiction. In 2019 – it sounds plausibly like a Google or Apple quarterly guidance !. While a “Singularity” is still beyond the common man’s imagination, Artificial Intelligence has started pervading all aspects of our personal lives (Think Alexa, Netflix, Amazon recommendations) and professional lives (Think IBM’s Watson; predicting machine failure, medical diagnosis, intelligent assistants for customer service, et al). Yet, as most of this AI today is built to solve or address specific tasks, better and faster than a human can – it is known as Narrow-AI.

The biggest ethical dilemma that will face society with narrow AI is what happens to the labour market and the distribution of wealth. As AI has the potential to replace millions of jobs – in transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, law, teaching and pretty much all fields of knowledge work – what will happen to the current workforce? What laws if any are required to protect their interests? With fewer people in jobs, in a “post-work” society – what will be the basis for distribution of wealth?

An important theme in AI ethics and law, is about how AI should be programmed to learn. Since today AI systems, learn from human behavior – how do we ensure that AI does not reflect human biases or prejudices. A recent example in the US justice system – illustrates the risk. A Narrow-AI tool called COMPAS, was used by a judge to sentence an AfricanAmerican defendant, as the tool ‘predicted’ that he was at a high risk of re-offending- hence meriting a higher sentence. A later assessment showed that the tool was no better at predicting a repeat crime, than people selected at random –and was possibly biased against African Americans, due to it’s learning algorithm.

Or let’s take self-driving cars. Who is culpable when there is a crash involving a self-driving car – the designers, the AI developers, the financiers? In the first place, what is the way by which the car should be programmed to learn and act – if there is a choice between protecting its’s occupants, or a crowd of people on the road – what “choice” should the car make? If it’s not a crowd of people- but a lone pedestrian at risk – should the choice change? Ethical dilemmas that were never as visible before – will need to be defined and addressed.

As Narrow-AI gets more sophisticated and boundaries between human and machine blurs, we believe that a core differentiating human characteristics is “Consciousness” or the capacity to be self-aware.
Hence, the real dilemmas will emerge, when Artificial General Intelligence, becomes a reality ie, machines that can do any intellectual task that humans can – make judgements, demonstrate imagination and creativity, and feel emotions. Once we consider machines as entities that can think, feel and act – shouldn’t we reflect on their legal status? Or similar to animals of comparable intelligence. After all, since we have human-rights, even animal-rights –would we be forced to think of machine-rights?

The Platform Wars – 1

The Platform Wars – 2

The Platform Wars – 3

The Platform Wars – 4

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