“Wacha tuone vile hizi elections zitaenda, alafu nitapost content.”
Translation: (Let’s see how this elections will turn out then post my content) I quipped when one of my readers questioned about when my next post was going to be. This was the new Kenyan proverb over the past few months and business was actually slowed down in the whole economy to an almost near halt! Thank God violence didn’t erupt otherwise, the economy would not only have come to a stand-still, but would have been set back a couple of years probably.
The past couple of days, I have been following keenly on the developments around the Kenyan electioneering period: from IT 101 on servers to emotions running wild on social media, from basic arithmetic to complex coding of programs to interpret data. I realized how easily as human beings are distracted by a single event-being bombarded by information both intellectually and emotionally, and I realized we all decode this effects differently. Some will opt to only absorb and ponder up to a certain limit of information based on their level of IQ and some will wish to act in a certain way based on their level of EQ (emotional quotient). This is the age of big data (for those familiar with the term) and our human nature can only allow us to analyze the information up to a certain level with very minimal errors. The level at which we entrust our operations to computerized systems is amazing and we have completely trusted the computers and machines. Please note that this is not a post about how the IEBC conducted their activities but an insight to how much we have entrusted our shortcomings to the artificially intelligent machine.
The drama that unfolded (read hacking of servers) got me thinking. Moreover, some news of how two Facebook chat-bots invented their own language and were communicating to each other trickled on my social media timeline, amidst the election posts. I asked myself, has the human race advanced this much in technology such that we can entrust our democratic processes and social interactions to them; mind you both of these inventions of our humanity? What’s next? Religion? Sigh, my mind was entangled in a web of curiosity wanting to know what is driving the need to advance artificial intelligence, whereby very little human intervention would be required to do some tasks.
I visited my sci-fi movie collection accompanied with a deep Google search and realized that artificial intelligence, AI is not a new concept but has been under development over the past 60 years. Movies like I-Robot, Terminator series and the Matrix: Trilogy send shivers in my spine thinking how destructive AI can be to humanity. In my opinion, what lacked in all the advanced machines of the future as depicted in these movies, was empathy.
As a good student of the universe, I sought more knowledge about AI. A definition by Wikipedia defines Artificial intelligence (AI) as intelligence exhibited by machines. In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of “intelligent agents”: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.
The overall goal of artificial intelligence is to create technology that allows computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner. These goals are further broken down into the following sub-goals:
- Problem solving
- Knowledge presentation
- Learning (machine learning)
- Motion and manipulation
- Social intelligence
- General intelligence
According to researchers and renowned scientists such as Stephen Hawking, once all these goals are achieved in machines, then we can say that we have indeed achieved strong AI. Applications of AI in our modern day society is still limited. It includes autonomous vehicles (such as drones and self-driving cars), medical diagnosis, creating art (such as poetry), proving mathematical theorems, playing games (such as Chess or Go), search engines (such as Google search), online assistants (such as Siri), image recognition in photographs, spam filtering, prediction of judicial decisions and targeting online advertisements.
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.
— Stephen Hawking”
The risks, however, associated with AI are quite catastrophic to the very fabric that makes us human. This includes:
- Devaluation of humanity
- Decreased demand for human labor. Here in Africa where especially the majority of the working population are the youth aged between 18-35 years, AI would be a recipe for disaster due to an implosion of idle youth whose jobs are being performed by robots; and an idle mind…
- Having machines as guardians of morality
- Developing destructive methods to achieve its goals. Machine learning actually creates room for evolution of machines and destructive methods to achieve its goals is highly likely.
I am not an enemy of progress in technology but my question is, are we able to make a robot FEEL? When that intelligent machine is confronted with the option of either protecting an innocent life in the line of fire or fire haphazardly to ensure the destruction of the enemy, will it sacrifice itself to ensure the innocent is safe despite the continued existence of the enemy? Real human soldiers in the battlefield can EMPATHIZE and make a judgment call that is life preservative.
Its true that the data amassed over the years in this technological age is humongous and to be able to make decisions and even predict outcomes from this data, thorough analyses of it needs to be done. Organizations, through big data analytics are increasing their profitability on a daily basis based on the judgements made from the analyses. A simple spreadsheet running on a CPU can barely scratch the surface when it comes to such decision making processes.
Its going to be a long journey before emotions are programmed in machines. My hope is that we are able to achieve the Artificial Intelligence in machines, up to a certain level. As human beings we need to have complete control of this type of intelligence. The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to reason and our technology, and robots lie in between. They need a leash! It has to remain primitive up to a certain capacity, otherwise we are creating a recipe for our own extinction. Terminator movies explain this perfectly!
Today in engineering history: August 12, 1981: The IBM Personal Computer, commonly known as the IBM PC, is the original version and progenitor of the IBM PC compatible hardware platform. It is IBM model number 5150. It was created by a team of engineers and designers under the direction of Don Estridge of the IBM Entry Systems Division in Boca Raton, Florida.