The rapid advent of artificial intelligence (AI) is scary to many people, promising to others, and a little of both to most.

It is scary partly because it more unmanageable than the Internet and social media. In a world already beset by ransomware, Russian manipulation and privacy invasions, it is harder to control than Facebook, which does not inspire a lot of confidence. At the same time, AI is promising in that it may, for example, help solve societal problems and/or lead to improved medical care. And undoubtedly some other benefits yet unimagined.

A first order question is figuring out the real differences between artificial and human versions of intelligence. One age-old definition of exceptionally good human intelligence is the ability to associate dissociated things/ideas. That, of course, involves pure intuitiveness. It is not yet obvious to me that AI can clear that hurdle.

AI’s self-learning algorithms and limitless memory notwithstanding, it is still basically dependent on the speed and capacity of computers to almost instantly scan and consider millions of possibilities looking for all relevant matches and possibilities relating to the issue/question at hand. If, however, two things have never been associated (which obviously happens), a ‘match’ is not there to be found. Hence, exceptional humans may always [hopefully] have an edge over machines. The fate of the rest of us is yet to be determined, presumably by our eventual robot overlords.

In the meantime, there is much to beware. Machines, for example, never forget a face. Therefore, people may have to be more careful in where they go and show their face, because the evidence that they were there at a certain time will be available more or less forever. That might be an advantage in establishing an alibi. But, it also could put them at the scene of a crime. Those are not necessarily off-setting possibilities. Opportunities for abuse by law enforcement or despots abound. Freedom of assembly is a cornerstone of our democracy – one that cannot exist without freedom of movement.

AI therefore might just be on the verge of impinging (even unintentionally) on our basic freedoms. And it is this aspect of AI – the dark, all-knowing technological Big Brother – that worries experts in the field, and others.

A recent Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, now again Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, regards this as one of the least visible but biggest problems we face today, and he worries that if we do not address it aggressively –and SOON—it might successfully undermine a lot of our own cyber strength.

In this era of digital revolutions, we are beset on all sides by subtle new issues and questions.

We need to take this one HEAD ON and get ahead of the curve.


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