Artificial Intelligence: Not A Matter of “Can We” But A Matter Of “Should We”

While the title sounds like the one guy in a science fiction movie about the robot uprising that gets to say ‘I told you so!’ later, I don’t actually mean ‘they’ll rise up against their human overlords!’ in this case. Though I’m not entirely able to shake the mental image of the SciFi robo-uprising after all my years watching movies and TV shows on that topic, the more realistic issue I would like to pose to you guys today is the issue of the morality of AI Androids and why we should really question whether or not it’s right to pursue them as technology progresses.

i20robot203d2004
I,Robot, 2004

While at first blush it seems like a dumb question to ask, because they’re just machines like any other AI programming, there is a lot of discussion in the tech industry over the actual issue of the ethics of AI. Most of the issues raised about the idea of AI comes from logistical issues such as replacing humans in areas that would take too many jobs, and in the instances where AI isn’t as reliable as a human would be.

The more SciFi issues revolve around things like the idea that Superintelligent AI Androids could outsmart humanity and take over, which is what I like to call the, “VIKI” scenario. In the film I, Robot the android VIKI utilizes the Asimov Three Laws of Robotics to the point that she realizes humans are a threat to each other, so the best way to prevent harm to humans is to ‘control’ them. There are some issues that are closer to my main point but are about the AI Androids becoming human-like and self-aware and understanding that they are not humans though they have human feelings. I call this one the “Roy Batty” scenario from the film Bladerunner, in which the replicants have gone rogue because they know they are going to be destroyed and they fear death. The Roy Batty is related to the ‘enslaved masses rise up against their masters’ concept.

200_s
Blade Runner (1982)

But the question I think is first what should be asked is in relation to the ‘enslaved masses’ but on the side of the humans: at what point does the creation of AI Androids become a replacement for slavery?

Now, before anybody goes, “Dear God, they’re robots, not people”, let’s take a look at the entire point of computers and machines. The first proposed mechanical computer was Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine in 1837. The purpose of the Analytical Engine was to do math faster and more accurately than any human could. This continued to be the purpose of computers for a long time, as the name ‘computer’ suggests. Since the invention of computers, the entire concept of a computer is to do things at a faster and more accurate rate than humans can do. Though our modern computers are far more than just calculators on steroids, the concept of most technological advances is to make things easier on humans and allow us to do more with less effort.

While many would argue that this is exactly the point of an AI Android, to make life easier for humans, because it is just another machine, I want to raise a question about human psychology. Humans have a tendency for anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is defined as, “Giving human characteristics to animals, inanimate objects or natural phenomena.” Anthropomorphism is a phenomena that has also been studied in regards to robots and human-robot interaction regarding how people feel about the robot after viewing it through an anthropomorphic lens.

honda_asimo
Humanoid Robot, ASIMO, 2000

As humans, we are more inclined to anthropomorphism with a figure that is human-like in shape and other characteristics. Rick Nauert, PhD describes the psychological and evolutionary purpose of anthropomorphism as:

Neuroscience research has shown that similar brain regions are involved when we think about the behavior of both humans and of nonhuman entities, suggesting that anthropomorphism may be using similar processes as those used for thinking about other people. Anthropomorphism carries many important implications. For example, thinking of a nonhuman entity in human ways renders it worthy of moral care and consideration.

Anthropomorphism is relative to empathy, which is only increased when the thing being anthropomorphized is humanoid in shape and, in most people’s plans for humanoid AI Androids, would become a household implement that ‘lives’ in people’s homes and performs tasks for them.

This is where we come back to the question raised above, because presuming we, as humans, are likely to anthropomorphize the household Android and give it a name and expect it to do household chores, what does it say about us as people that we would want that?

Does it not, essentially, mean that the idea of an AI Android is a servant you don’t have to pay for their services? What do we generally call servants who don’t get paid?

Slaves.

It is very important for me to reinforce the fact that I am not in any way claiming that people who want an AI Android want to welcome back slavery, and I am not suggesting that this is a definite ‘AI is Slavery’ idea. I don’t even know how I feel about my own questions at this point. We have moral gray areas all across the board, but does this constitute as something that belongs in that gray area?

I’ll leave it up to you guys to think about on your own and decide for yourself, but I just think that this is a very important question we in the future may to consider, especially after reading this passage regarding the anthropomorphism of military robots.

As human robot partnerships become more common, decisions will need to be made by designers and users as to whether the robot should be viewed  anthropomorphically.  In some instances, Darling notes, it might be undesirable because it can impede efficient use of the technology.  The paper uses the example of a military robot used for mine clearing that a unit stopped using because it seemed “inhumane” to put the robot at risk in that way.

Interconnected World: How New Media Has Lowered The Barrier To Entry For Global Communication

When you hear the words “New Media” you probably think of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ect. However, New Media is more than just the social media platforms we all use every day.

person-woman-hand-smartphone

New Media, defined as “Mass communication utilizing digital technologies” by Oxford English dictionary, is not just limited to social media, but also includes the lightening fast way in which information is shared around the world. New technologies as well as the culture around global communication all are part of the idea of New Media. There are many more ways than just social media platforms that make up all the ways New Media has shaped the way that we communicate in the twenty-first century, and communication is changing every single day. The way that global news is reported and verified utilizing these types of sources is also New Media.

Just a decade ago, even with the internet age at a high point, the bulk of people seeking news were limited to what major news networks reported on, both in traditional print, television media, and in their online websites. While we had access to talk to others from around the world, there was far less platform availability for news to be disseminated by individuals in various parts of the world to a broader audience than one-on-one communication. In other words, digital communication between unofficial sources was still, largely, not an actual method of mass communication so much as a modern-day ‘phone-tree’ .

Though technology has been advancing rapidly for decades now, we have now reached a point in which there are very few barriers to communication with others. Though her take is a little more negative in her post, Mandy Edwards say something very crucial to this phenomenon when she says, “As communication and information travel faster and faster, the world seems to get smaller and smaller.” What this means to most of us is that what would have once been virtually impossible to the average person, communicating with someone anywhere in the world at any time instantly, is now just a few key-strokes or screen-taps away. In essence, New Media has lowered the boundaries of privilege regarding communication.

hjxqet0dozil
From the 1995 film Clueless

When I was a child in the 90s, though people on TV often had cellphones, I didn’t know a single person in real life that had a cellphone, because they were an expensive device that had a certain level of privilege attached to its ownership. My aunt and uncle owned a bag phone for their car, and even that was the kind of luxury they boasted about and showed off like one would show off a diamond necklace. Also in the 90s, my other aunt was the only person I knew who had an internet connection, because she owned her own business. Twenty years ago, having an internet connection and a mobile phone were markers of privilege, but today those items are in some ways free (think free Wifi at a cafe and free computer use at libraries) and a cellphone of some sort is relatively inexpensive for even the lowest income individuals all over the globe.

Another way in which there was a certain barrier to access in the 90s regarding the idea of global communication was the cost of long-distance phone calls. Even today, an actual phone call internationally will cost a fortune to some. The cost of even one-one-one communication across borders has formerly been limited to news reported by major news networks, individual communication via mail, or expensive phone calls. The invention of email still required an internet connection and a device to access it from, which we have already established, were expensive commodities for all but the privileged members of society just in the few decades previous.

1369377315_14350
Inflation Adjusted Price in 1995: $5,467

However, within the last decade alone, the barriers to one-on-one communication have fallen significantly and, more important and more pertinent to the actual discussion of what New Media really means, the barriers to mass communication have fallen away with the rise of social media. Social media as a method of mass communication may have its downfalls, such as lower barriers to entry meaning lower barriers to accountability in what information is spread, but it allows more information to be shared to a large audience and shared around to more large audiences without the curation of major news networks.

While there is often something negative associated with news networks curating what information to broadcast, the major issue is not some censorship-esque control of information, but rather the fact that major news networking sources choose what to report on based on what will get the most attention from their audience. There are a lot of things that an America-centric news report would leave out that social media allows reports on to be spread throughout global audiences, for example. The point of this is that New Media changes the speed and the methods of distribution of information through the channels of social media. What would have likely never become broadly reported news finds it’s audience through social media. New Media has made it possible for people all over the world to share information that is significant to certain groups of people that would otherwise not be considered significant enough to warrant an article on CNN or a spot on the nightly news on NBC in a way that makes it possible for the intended audience to find and access the information with a quick search and a few clicks.

When it comes down to it, New Media is more about the way we think about communication than it is about the methods through which we communicate. Though technology is the basis of the concept of New Media, it isn’t just about the platforms we share information through with social media, it is also about the way we think about communication. New Media has managed to affect global changes in the very idea of communication because it has lowered the barrier to entry to what is and isn’t possible when it comes to communication regardless of location, wealth, or status of privilege.