Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Will You Trust a Robot?

Jeff Bezos and team launched 66.5 miles into suborbital space on a rocket ship with no pilot this week.  The rocket ship operated autonomously using sensors and artificial intelligence.  That takes trust. They had to believe in the science and that the AI system would get them safely there and back.  They had to have trust in the scientists, programmers, engineers, physicists and chemists.  They had to have trust in the math and physics.  They had to trust the coding and formulas used in the algorithms.  They had to trust in the data coming from the sensors.  Although there were likely many failures along the way, they trusted the process - the scientific method.

My colleague, the deeply insightful futurist Frank Diana, asked his readers a question this week, "Will artificial intelligence be more profound than Fire, Electricity, and the Internet?"  When I first considered the question my instinct was to answer yes.  But then I pondered the demonstrated lack of trust many people have toward science and scientists.  Will people actually use AI, or will conspiracy theorists and politicians sideline it?

During the global pandemic we have witnessed many people villainizing and discrediting scientists whenever their scientific findings concerning masks and vaccines did not nicely align with a preferred political message.  It seems for many, they only believe science if it agrees with their politics. 

Everyday more of our cars, homes and appliances are using artificial intelligence.  Will politicians reject these to make a political point?  If so, for how long?  This will most definitely impact the degree of "profoundness" artificial intelligence will ultimately have on human progress.

The term cognitive dissonance means a state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes.  Are we really so inconsistent that we trust science while driving or flying, just as Jeff Bezos did this week, but deny it later when engaged in politics?  Science is not science if the measure of its truth is dependent on the approval of a politician.

What are your thoughts?  Will artificial intelligence be more profound than Fire, Electricity, and the Internet or will it be sidelined for political gain?

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.