23 August 2023
At the AIT Forum on the Histories of the Internet taking place on 9 January 2024 I will chair a session entitled: AI Future Realities.
I, along with a panel with Vassilis Galanos and Chris Reynolds, will give our perspectives and key arguments on the history and future of AI and its consequences, which will be followed by an open discussion with the audience.
Here are some thoughts that I hope will stimulate the discussion:
The Coming AI Tsunami
The history of technology contains many examples of the time lag between new concepts/inventions and their exploitation. The internet is a good example; ARPANET being developed back in the 60s and the browser technology at the end of the 80s, but its mass exploitation only really occurring in the last 10-15 years.
So it is with AI. The concepts have been there for some time – John Von Newman’s hypothesis of technological singularity being postulated as long ago as the 1950s followed by all the subsequent Hollywood blockbuster movies on different aspects of the theme. Systems have meanwhile become more sophisticated, firstly with expert systems and then leading onto neural networks and deep learning techniques. This has been happening over a long period of time with little awareness on the part of the general public.
‘Wild West’ of technology
But now it has finally burst on the media and attracted the attention of politicians. Suddenly Governments are vying with each other to take the lead in managing and regulating this ‘wild west’ of technology. AI promises a great deal in improving health care, drug discovery, manufacturing, administration and much else besides. At the same time its dark side is becoming evident for example in the activities of the Chinese Government and the war in Ukraine.
The UK is, quite remarkably, third in the world behind China and the USA for investment in AI start ups and it is important that we provide the right incentives to build upon this to ensure that we become a centre of expertise and creativity. We do though at the same time need to provide an ethical framework for what is happening.
AI has now with the arrival of chatbots etc started taking over functions traditionally undertaken by humans, and even entering the world of artistic creativity. The ingenuity of young entrepreneurs is about to release a tsunami upon us – the future has now arrived.
We are entering a world with thinking machines increasingly at its heart and humans moving towards the periphery as decisions are taken for us. Where exactly does this leave human knowledge, skills and creativity?
We need to rise to the challenge of transitioning to this new world, reaping the benefits whilst protecting ourselves from the obvious dangers. As part of this it is vital that we look to redefine the politics of democracy and freedom in this digital world.