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Soon Governments Will Know If You’ve Been Naughty Or Nice—And It’s All Thanks To AI Tech

Artificial Intelligence—it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but how much do we really know about it? At the Global Entrepreneurship Community (GEC) 2017 Summit, Sophie Hackford, the Director of WIRED Consulting and Education at Wired Magazine, broke down what this constituted and the emergence of still-developing technology that provokes both fear and awe.
“Artificial intelligence is indexing the real world the way Google does the Internet. They digitalise us and what we are creating by processing our behaviour, listing what we do, and categorising us.”
And this could have many ramifications for our daily lives.

How do they do it?

We already talk to our phones. It’s easy to implement whatever AI tech in as an additional feature to track and record our movements. Video has also become a sensor. We can now watch humans from space satellites and note down their actions in their daily lives. With the emergence of drones, this technology is more efficient, recording actions and faces in real-time. So how can AI technology shape and determine our future?

1. Lower crime rate—in exchange for almost-constant surveillance

“Faces are but pixels. And pixels can be identified. It’s amazing to see how far facial-recognition platforms can use that to search for you.”
In Shenzhen, they are are already using this to catch and humiliate jaywalkers by taking pictures of the guilty and displaying them on a large 15-second video screen. The police officers don’t even have to ask you for your details—they already have it, all thanks to the AI software in the traffic cameras.
The jaywalker’s face is displayed on the screen / Image Credit: China.org
This tech is also being used as an helpful extension for the police to monitor security in concentrated places like airports, hospitals, and malls. If you think that’s absurd, China’s paranoia doesn’t stop there. They’re working to implement a social credit score system to reward and punish behaviour. For example, if the system detects you playing video games all day, the algorithm may deduct points from your reputational score. It will reward you with points for good behaviour, such as picking up trash and completing your work. The points will then be used to judge of how worthy you are to receive certain benefits such as education opportunities, hospital privileges, and protocol exemptions—all by being the ideal government citizen. And there’s the rub. If it’s about being an “ideal government citizen”, then you’re subject to what the government decides is good or bad behaviour. Your access to necessities could be limited based on what the ruling body dictates is “right”. And there are a lot of ways that could go off the deep end.

2. Breakthroughs in medicine—in exchange for the human touch.

“In Mass Gen hospital at Boston, as an experiment, a sentient AI was tasked to take the vitals of every patient in the room in 125 milliseconds.”
Sophie added, “One of the very first approved medic machines was put to the test to scan arteries and the heart. Not only could it pass diagnostic tests as accurately as humans, but a fundamental difference was that they could do it in 10 to 15 seconds compared to a human who would take 15 to 20 minutes.” That’s not saying a human nurse isn’t reliable enough to run a diagnosis, but they clearly wouldn’t be able to complete it within that time. If AIs can achieve just this much in an experiment, imagine the time saved and productivity increased once a fully functioning medical artificial intelligence comes into production. But of course, that’s where the ethical concerns come in. Who is to blame then if an AI messes up when dealing with a patient? The designer? The manufacturer? The hospital deploying it? The medical staff who work with it? That opens a whole new can of worms. Also, what happens when machines becomes too good at what they do? After all, a “perfect” AI would have a much lower failure rate than a doctor. But when we’re sick, will we really want to be treated by AI?

3. A whole new vision of the world opens up—in exchange for the control we have over what we see.

Imagine these in your face all the time / Image Credit: BBC.com
Remember those futuristic movies where you can change the room, scenery, or clothes to suit your fancy with just a click of a button? Well, that future doesn’t seem too far away from real life. Artificial intelligence thrives on data to make sense of the world and to decide their next step of action. Therefore, each of us will have our own personal algorithm which is our desires, behaviours, and attitudes, all wrapped up in one. And our personal algorithm will interact with the city’s, brand’s, or your friend’s system—effectively making our lives seamless. “When you do your online shopping, the algorithm takes note of your previous purchases and address and uses that to tailor the price accordingly. The same happens when you enter a physical store—the store’s system scans your data, and everything is presented to you based on your own personal algorithm.” As AI’s ability to control what it thinks we want to see increases, the more invasive the world becomes. Adverts popping up in our faces, constant interaction with holograms; it’s basically existing in an augmented reality. With smart home devices that are supposed to cater to our every need, to tailor-made ads that flash before us as we head to work, there will no longer be boundaries dividing offline and online—you are connected to the Internet 24/7.

4. The potential is there—but the threat is real.

Sophie ended her presentation with a quote from Stephen Hawking:
“If humans today design computer viruses, why couldn’t a human in the future design an AI that replicated itself, that would in the future, take over?”
It may not happen now. But 10 years before we didn’t see the emergence of Apple Watches and robots that can backflip, so who’s to say that complete immersion in artificial intelligence is a implausible future? But when handled correctly, it opens up a new set of exciting possibilities, since it is still a fairly untapped market. Imagine: from satellites to automonous driving vehicles that would reduce accidents, implants that will allow us to control what we see digitally, to being monitored 24/7. The thought is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. Whether or not you think AI is a threat or an exciting leap into the future, we should definitely take it seriously. And for all our sakes, we should work towards making sure that the outcome is a desirable one.
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Feature Image Credit: Person Of Interest, CBS