Written With Hands
So — I’m going to give you all my data. Because that way you can sell me a whole lot more stuff and, while you are at it and because you will then know me that well, you will charge me a premium because you will be able to figure out that I can afford it. Right? Nope.
I’ve been very interested in new technology for years — my first proper job was helping friends launch the first microcomputer in the UK and ever since then I’ve been a very early adopter of just about every gadget available. Sad I know.
The thing is I’m an analogue person and I don’t actually know anything about the technology. Not a thing. I guess that puts me in the majority on something after all. Not sure I like that idea.
I much prefer to draw and create — I want to make stuff using my own mind and hands far rather than have to figure out how why it works or code or wire stuff up — if that’s even a thing anymore. I’m more interested in the outcome — the result of a technology than the technology itself.
A little surprising then that I’m cruelly addicted to the wave of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) stuff. Algorithms, statistical analysis and natural language processing — yum. I’m especially obsessed by the advent of the pretty cool applications — many of them actually happening in our world right now. The result of these incredible technologies.
You can add a bunch of other stuff to this addiction — they hide behind vogue terms like 3D Printing and Robotics and what I’m saying is bring it on. I know there will be many a dissenting voice* about that being even a remotely good idea.
* There’s many folk who fear what it means and they have good reason because humans probably can’t be trusted to do the right thing with the incredible power now at our disposal. But hear me out.
YOU TAKE THE HIGHLINE AND I’LL TAKE THE LOWLINE
Given the incredible ability for machines to learn, mimic and then supersede our capacity for calculation we can solve problems that seemed improbable only a few years ago. Connect all these things together with robots and give them challenges that humans no longer want to do or were incapable of doing in the first place and you can see the attraction of this to both large and small corporations.
The implications of this are almost guaranteed to be dire for some — perhaps even most of us. People increasingly out of work while we continue to fill up the world with scarily effective machines making tons of stuff that we can live without and that might one day start killing us — its own makers. How dare they! A doomsday scenario.
“This genie is already out of Pandora’s Box. And it’s the human race that’s gonna need the bottle. What are we going to do with this new power? Will any good come from it?
There’s a scenario that suggests the corporations and possibly governments will use these techniques to further enslave and control us. Extracting more money from us for things that are more convenient for them than for us*. Yes, we are that gullible.
* Just so you know that’s already happening and with data that you are freely giving them to do it with.
Another scenario is that we say no to that and start owning our own data and choose how much of that we let the machines know about — this means staying in control of the choices we make and the things we get served. I can’t be the only one with an AdBlocker can I? And while it’s already sort of possible to control all our own data, we still need a lot of convincing that it’s a good thing to do.
“We’re moving away from a traditional consumer society where the value resided in ownership of the object itself to one where the value resides in the usage of the product and the impact that we can achieve from that usage.” — John Hagel
Quite right, and when the balance tips away from that favouring us as an individual, surely we will vote with our feet and switch off the tasty titbits that help the sneaky corporations sniff us out and abuse their privileges? Jury out on that one still*. Real stupidity?
* Vast swathes of society are quite willing to assume that in the greater scheme of things mostly it’s gonna be OK. Hmm, while I kind of agree with that and have nothing to hide I’m in favour of sending a signal — making sure they don’t simply take our stupidity for granted. It can’t hurt.
John Hagel again —
“In this changing environment, vendors of products and services will need to become more adept at accelerating learning of consumers, both in the pre-purchase and post-purchase phases. This will involve a profound shift in mindset from doing transactions to building rich and sustaining relationships that will enable the vendor to become more and more helpful to the consumer.”
Well, we certainly hope so right? And when he says learn that means WE HAVE TO LEARN TOO.
H O W E V E R
I’m far less interested in keeping the capitalist commercial world alive with it’s mantra of abundance and far more interested in solving some of the more important challenges of our world. It’s a passion of ours to try and help address some of the most complex ones.
Some examples of how AI can help — The needless poaching of Rhinos, tackling the near critical implications of climate change, closing some of the gaping chasms in our society — poverty, helping countries to transform agriculture — ending the slavery of children and helping the millions who live their lives in prostitution or living in chains making cheap clothes for fat westerners.
Won’t it be wiser, not only to use these new tools for such things — but because of the horizontal ability of these ‘machines’ to join themselves up — bringing into play the conscious corporations who will have by now heard their consumer’s voices by learning how we think.
By John Hagel’s excellent definition they will be learning how we think — and if there is the intelligence that we hope exists, and is growing within the leaders of these corporations, then we can automatically weave them into helping make the whole process real far quicker — and at a global scale.
These technologies allow us to make major inroads. They could create whole new industries — precious jobs. These new powers could allow us to help real people and restore some humanity to our crazy societies.
With the right energy and the best thinking by smart people who know how to use these tools we can begin to dream that we might put an end to many of the inequities we see around us — cleaning up the mess we’ve made of our world.
I’m not quite naive enough to think any of this happens overnight or is going to be easy — even though there’s a lot already happening — but I am optimistic enough to want to keep banging on about it. It’s the conversation we need.
It may be called artificial intelligence but I believe it stands a better chance than us of halting very REAL stupidity.Published in