Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Transferring Human Vulnerabilities to Artificial Intelligence

I have written a series of articles about the future of information, truth and influence.  These articles explore the human vulnerabilities that are exploited in social media, and in combination with other traditional forms of media. I also explore the concept of social engineering and information operations where professional marketers, military and political strategist use the way our brain works to influence us.  In this article we explore how our brains and their instinctual and learned biases can cause us problems when combined with artificial intelligence and automation.

In the revealing new book, The Loop, by NBC News technology correspondent, Jacob Ward, he shares how we can cause ourselves harm by letting our unconscious, evolutionary instincts and biases shape our automated future.  He warns that the real danger of artificial intelligence is that it is informed by and learns from how our human brains work, and our human brains are constantly making instant and unthinking decisions using instinctual and learned biases, short-cuts and hidden processes.  These decision-making tendencies protected humans from predators, marauding hordes and other dangers throughout history, but today we are often incorporating these same instincts into the automated systems that are increasingly making decisions for us today.  The results are leading us to some unintended consequences.

Everything from the food we eat, to the homes we buy, to the news articles we read, our political leanings, the movies we enjoy, the people we are attracted to and the relationships we form, are all increasingly being served up to us as recommendations by artificial intelligence - and our lazy human minds love it!  

Each tweet we read, each comment we like, each action we take or click we make informs and guides the AI systems that are personalizing our future.  AI systems learn quickly and stop showing us an entire world of possibilities, options, choices, flavors and alternatives.  The world that is presented to us gets smaller and smaller. 

Ward calls this process The Loop.  "The Loop is a downard tailspin of shrinking choices, supercharged by capitalist efficiency, in which human agency is under threat from irresistible systems packaged for our unconscious acceptance."  The Loop gets tighter and tighter as it learns more about us.  

This closing loop does not lead to a life of expanding horizons, new experiences, surprising discoveries, personal growth, maturity,  open minds, more diverse relationships, generous levels of curiosity and lifelong learning, rather, it leads to a tightening loop of repeated sameness.  Strangely, many of our instinctual, unconscious biases that inform AI, are known only to experts and researchers.  Our choices are served to us without any knowledge or recognition of how, when or why we made those choices.

Ward shares that the path out of this restrictive and limiting loop of automated decision-making involves, first, recognize we have hidden biases and mental vulnerabilities that are educating our automated AI powered world.  Second, purposely define the life and world we desire in the future and live into it, despite the siren call of automated decision-making and recommendation engines stuck on repeat.  

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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.