Thursday, July 22, 2021

Must We be Good to Have a Good Future?

The renowned Futurist Gerd Leonhard, in this short and impactful video, says in order to create a good future - we must be good.  He suggests four focus areas for the future: people, prosperity, purpose and planet.  If you agree with Gerd, then the first question is "What is good?  Secondly, "How do we become good?"  And, thirdly, "How do we use that good to create the future we all want?"

A satisfying definition of "good" for me is something that promotes happiness, community well-being, is loving, pleasing, admirable, kind, desirable and virtuous.  Once we figure out how to become these things ourselves, we must embed them in our technology in the form of AI, to help us shape a "good" future.

As more of our daily activities and interactions involve artificial intelligence, we will want our interfaces and communications with AI (digital assistants, chatbots and robots) to feel and be "good."  We will want AI to make accurate, consistent and "good" decisions, and then to execute "good" actions.  Training AI to be good and act good is a real challenge.  These kinds of philosophical, moral and inspired traits and actions are not AI's strong suite.  Now that I am writing this I realize they aren't particularly the strong suite of humans either.

I can imagine a scenario where an algorithm processes data that suggests three equally logical actions.  The final choice, however, is determined by which option is most heavily weighted to the "good."  Which one of us is going to determine the "good" weight?

The obvious problem with this scenario is us humans can't agree on what is good, or to what degree it is good.  Feeding and sheltering homeless families and giving them medical assistance is considered good by some, and bad by others.  Saving millions of lives by vaccinating people is considered good by some and bad by others.

Our artificial intelligence powered digital assistants, chatbot and robots are all awaiting their instructions about how they can help create a "good" future.  What should I tell them?  

Watch the latest on Oracle's digital assistants, chatbots and artificial intelligence here in my interview with Oracle expert Suhas Uliyar.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.