Artificial intelligence could change our lives for the better
Opinions are divided when it comes to AI — artificial intelligence.
On one side, we have the supporters of AI — investing in huge companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Baidu, and so on. The UAE is the only country with a Ministry of AI. China has recently invested $150 billion in order to become the leading AI country by 2030.
And, on the other side of the aisle, there are people like Elon Musk, who warned that AI can be a threat to human civilization. Musk is no left-over Luddite. His worry comes from the concentration of power of the big tech companies involved in the development of AI.
This is a legitimate concern. Yet, a large number of the consumers, big corporations, and even governments are going gaga about AI.
Most think that AI is a good thing. Some people continue to fear that in the hands of the bad guys, this can be dangerous. This is not unlike the worry that keeps many leaders up at night, thinking about bad guys with hands on the triggers of nuclear bombs.
Regulation is an important matter for almost everything from tobacco products to AI.
What I am proposing here is something different, something out of the box. I am suggesting letting AI be everywhere. Why just limit it to humans? We need to overcome our anthropocentric bias. I would recommend AI for all — both sentient and inanimate objects.
Sure, there are good uses of AI on inanimate things such as intelligent toys for children for which MIT is taking the lead. And again, there are questionable uses of AI that raise ethical questions.
A world within reach
My proposals are more mundane. For example, if my blanket is outfitted with AI, it can gently wake me up in the morning without the radical solution that comes from my clock.
My AI-enabled stove then could start making a cup of hot tea for me without my being in the kitchen, and the time saved can be used for further reading on Hegel’s philosophy or updating my Facebook status, which I would do by looking at my iPhone 789, which (with its advanced level AI) would be able to read my mind.
I would like my cat to be empowered by AI so that he does not wake me up at 7am and can operate his food dispenser which, equipped with AI, would overrule the cat’s demand for excessive food.
Then I want AI on the teddy bear that our son used to play with when he was small. The teddy bear with AI will work part-time as a guard dog, guarding our main door and keep an eye out for intruders. We have a ceramic dog, but I would leave him alone because the teddy bear will be able to fool the AI-equipped intruder.
The ceramic dog will be a decoy.
I am suggesting letting AI be everywhere. Why just limit it to humans? We need to overcome our anthropocentric bias
Then, of course, some companies are working overtime with AI-enabled automobiles which are autonomous or self-driven. But I want AI on the roads. Roads with AI will reduce speed of the over-speeding car by creating extra drag factor.
And people used to talking with hand-held iPhones while driving at high-speeds will be deterred from doing that by an AI-enabled iPhone which will go into hibernation mode as soon as the car engine starts.
However, if the car is an autonomous vehicle, that would be a different story. Then everyone in the car is a passenger, and they can do whatever they like, playing cards, reading newspapers, catching up on lost sleep, and so on.
But not all cars will be autonomous. For instance, today, despite the presence of the automatic transmission technology, some people drive manual transmission cars (I don’t know why).
Similarly, in a pluralistic society, some people would like to drive their own cars by disengaging the self-driving mode — some are adventurous and some are simply not very bright people.
Saving lives too
I would focus on areas where human idiocy is incorrigible; rather than trying to bring the humans out from their bubble of idiocy or ideological stupor, I would like their tools to be AI-equipped.
AI-laden cars and trains will first warn their driver politely, saying, it is time to slow down, gradually escalating towards harsher language: “You idiot, must slow down” to forcing a shutdown of the engine.
And in the US, all the guns would be equipped with AI to the extent that the smart gun would disobey their murderous users by refusing to fire on children in school or people or animals who do not look threatening. If the gunman insists and tries to override, the gun would go off to hurt (non-fatally) the shooter himself.
I would definitely not deprive the animate world of walls and doors and windows, my bed and chairs and so on from AI. My door equipped with AI will recognize me as I approach my apartment and open itself and welcome me.
My AI-enabled door will simply advise any potential intruder that if you force me open I will automatically send a message to the nearest police station, and before you are done with your burglary, police will be waiting for you downstairs.
As I step inside the AI-enabled doormat will send a message to the coffeemaker to make my evening cappuccino while the cat will bring forth my AI-enabled sleeper. Meanwhile, my wall which will act as a large TV screen and monitor for my laptop will switch to some independent TV channels where the news of drones dropping food to food-shortage areas and medicines to areas with no-supply of medicines will bring a smile on my face.
Habibul Haque Khondker is a professor of sociology.