(Get Intelligent with a six-minute read)
OUT of the way, human.
AI programs are starting to become smart enough and capable enough to replace human beings in our traditional and long-held professional roles—and beyond basic functions like taking food orders or processing simple transactions.
As each day passes by, Artificial Intelligence is getting smarter. A new AI program has now gained the ability to write its own code, by stealing code from other programs.
One advantage of letting an AI loose in this way is that it can search more thoroughly and widely than a human coder but the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.
A world run by neural networked deep-learning machines requires a different workforce. Of course, humans still have to train these systems. But for now, at least, that’s a rarefied skill.
The code that runs the universe may defy human analysis. Another words the code will become less important than the data we use to train it.
First we write the code, then the machine expresses it. Machine learning suggests the opposite, an outside-in view in which code doesn’t just determine behavior, behavior also determines code but code does not exist separate from the physical world; it is deeply influenced and transmogrified by it.
So it is fair to conclude that we are about to have a more complicated but ultimately more rewarding relationship with technology.
I don’t think so. Machine learning will have a democratizing influence. Instead of being masters of our creations, we will have learned to bargain with them, cajoling and guiding them in the general direction of our goals.
We are in the process of building our own jungle, and it has a life of its own. The rise of machine learning is the latest—and perhaps the last—step in this journey.
Computers are becoming devices for turning experience into technology and we may well go from commanding our devices to parenting them.
Already the companies that build this stuff find it behaving in ways that are hard to govern. Last summer, Google rushed to apologize when its photo recognition engine started tagging images of black people as gorillas and it is facing an antitrust investigation in Europe that accuses the company of exerting undue influence over its search results.
One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand.
As networks grow more intertwined and their functions more complex, code has come to seem more like an alien force, the ghosts in the machine ever more elusive and ungovernable. Planes grounded for no reason.
Whether you like this state of affairs or hate it—whether you’re a member of the coding elite or someone who barely feels competent to futz with the settings on your phone—don’t get used to it. Our machines are starting to speak a different language now, one that even the best coders can’t fully understand.
To my mind this state of affairs is totally unacceptable because the digital revolution wormed its way into every part of our lives, it also seeped into our language and our deep, basic theories about how things work.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has gone so far as to suggest there might be a “fundamental mathematical law underlying human relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about.”
If you control the code, you control the world,” wrote futurist Marc Goodman.
Paul Ford was slightly more circumspect: “If coders don’t run the world, they run the things that run the world.”
Code is logical. Code is hackable. Code is destiny. These are the central tenets (and self-fulfilling prophecies) of life in the digital age, declaring the end of the age of Enlightenment, our centuries-long faith in logic, determinism, and control over nature.
We are surrounding ourselves with machines that convert our actions, thoughts, and emotions into data—raw material for armies of code-wielding engineers to manipulate.
With machine learning, programmers don’t encode computers with instructions. They train them by constantly deriving the relationship between billions of data points—generate guesses about the world.
Legal, medical, marketing, education, and even technological industries will all slowly be driven forward by machine workers and behind-the-scenes machine learning algorithms that can make the AI even better with minimal human interference.
What does this mean for the average worker? Are we all going to be jobless and homeless if we aren’t able to make any money?
Over the course of several years, which isn’t very long from a cultural transition standpoint, AI programs will become sophisticated enough to fully replace the roles most of us currently fill.
The top thinkers—the leaders, visionaries, and most experienced among us—will likely be “irreplaceable,” at least to preserve a cautious system of checks and balances to the still-relatively-new AI landscape, but the vast majority of us will be out of a job in our current capacities.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “there’s no way a machine can replace my job,” due to its demand for sophisticated processes like abstract thought or the use of language, consider three jobs already being replaced by AI programs, previously thought to be irreplaceable:
Automated investors and financial advisors—robotic programs to track medications- the news. (You’ve probably already read at least one article written by them without noticing.)
We have come to see life itself as something ruled by a series of instructions that can be discovered, exploited, optimized, maybe even rewritten.
Companies use code to understand our most intimate ties.
This, however, is going to create significant economic inequality world wise.
A disproportionate emphasis would fall on one niche skill set, and even though resources may be more plentiful (thanks again to AI-regulated processes in energy and agriculture), there could still be a serious discrepancy creating a rift between economic classes. Most of these debates were based on fixed beliefs about how the world has to be organized and how the brain worked.
All living cells that we know of on this planet are DNA-software-driven biological machines.
Even self-help literature insists that you can hack your own source code, reprogramming your love life, your sleep routine, and your spending habits but this no longer holds water.
The big urgent question is Artificial intelligence that is designed with profit overriding its code.
The world needs now not to-morrow a new Independent Organisation to vet all technology. If not we will have a world with all its present difficulties amplified ten fold.
The above is highly unlikely to happen. So if you don’t want to ripped off here is a small practical piece of advice.
Artificial Intelligence is currently able to recognise your face, your voice, your most intimate ties, the balance of who and what we all care about.
Recently a voice recognition app was used by criminals to phone an individual with the authentic voice of a loved one. This person naturally responded to a request made by that voice loosing his or hers life savings.
The Advice: Is to put in place a family code word that when requested or used authenticates all contacts.
I leave you with this.
The practice of matching letters to numbers in any language is called Germatria and it is particularly prevalent in Judaism, which believes that the holy book, the Torah is the word of God-given to Moses, and that Gods messages are coded numerically in the Hebrew word of the Torah. Thus the number 7 is intrinsically linked with Creation and is regarded as God’s number.