Thursday, May 10, 2018

The AI Discussion

The entire discussion of AI and algorithms is fascinating and kind of frightening. It's confusing and exciting, but the black box AI is really scary because we just don't know how it works, or what it will or can do. I think that's the big fear, is if we create something, and we sort of already have, that does function on its own, and can facilitate itself and be sentient and conscious, what will it do?  If we create something that is smarter than ourselves and better at doing what we do, what will that decide to do with us in turn? And the question I guess becomes, well if it's going to know what we feed it, then it's important to feed these algorithms and these programs with the right sort of information. Then the debate becomes what the right information is, and so on and so forth.

You already have things popping up that push the envelope on technology and what we know and how we interact with reality. The OpenAI that was unveiled at the Dota2 international championships earlier in the summer was an indicator of some of the things these programs are capable of. And then there's Google's new Assistant that sounds just like your average woman (https://www.facebook.com/circuitbreaker/videos/2045943969031755/). There was the whole lilmiquela situation, and regardless of what you believe, YouTuber Philip DeFranco made an interesting point-- basically, that he was as real as she was as far as we are concerned, because they exist in our screens, and that's the medium we know them by. I just thought of the Japanese Vocaloid Hatsune Miku and how one of her songs are about being trapped and programmed in that sort of pleasing idol virtual image. So in a way we are all Schrodinger's cats of the internet, real and not at the same time until actual interaction outside in the "real world".  So I guess by that note, we are what we put out in these created images and personas of ourselves. And yes, that could be wonderful and empowering, and it could be a totally amazing platform for people to express themselves and discuss, but the fact that these algorithms control what we consume needs to be considered. AI has already become a part of our lives, it's become a part of mainstream media, algorithms now dictate our perception of reality. And it's not a matter of right or wrong for the companies, it's often as we spoke about a matter of money. But I think the fact that we are fed things we like conditions us to pursue only the things we like, and I think it changes our experience and kind of the purpose of social media platforms, especially if it's for discussion. And when the internet becomes our source of information, it controls the way we perceive reality.

You have movies that imagine these sorts of realities with AI, like iRobot, Terminator,  Hal 9000 in 2001: Space Odessey, (Transformers maybe? But that's a whole other conversation because they are more alien robots so not really human creations) and so many more. They play off that fear of robot apocalypse, and the fear that these systems might outgrow us isn't new. But it's interesting, that these often evil/heroic robot AIs are gendered, and they are all gendered male. The female archetype for the same character is not really evil, but curious, and as seen in Her and that other movie that was basically an iteration of Her, was the romantic interest or pursued a romantic relationship and sought "humanness" rather than considering themselves superior. Actually, Ex Machina may be an exception, but not really because Ava still is romancing Caleb. Siri's default is a typical white female voice, as is Alexa, Cortana, and Google's. An aside on how we interact with AI: I used Siri once in front of a friend and said thank you, goodbye now, and she was surprised that I (a) said thank you, and that (b) Siri responded with something like your wish is my command and ended our conversation following my goodbye. I thought that it was interesting that she said, "Aw, o course you say thank you" but in my head, it never occurred to me that I could not say thank you, or that I might be the strange one for talking to Siri with my goodbye and thank you. And that raises the question: How do we want to interact with AI? That will most definitely determine how they are programmed to sound and function. Which brings us back to the gendered AI topic. Although you can customize Siri, it's interesting that she(?) is even gendered at all, and that she was given a female . Or any of these AIs altogether. But the fact that they are, and the kinds of roles they are assigned to further shows not only how important gender is to identity and image to us, but also kind of perpetuates gender roles. (Actually, on second thought, I think HitchBot was nongendered as are the more industrial... also interesting that HitchBot was destroyed in the US after making a few successful trips in Europe and Canada-- it's definitely revealing on what we think of robots but also how it might be a cultural attitude) It's interesting that when we try and translate the human experience into AI, that all aspects go with it, further proving the need to minimize bias within the data we feed it. It's interesting that we want to pursue this kind of programming at all and it'll be interesting to watch as things unfold and to see what roles AI will replace and how we will intereact.

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