By Jim Whitt Contributing Editor
If you wanted to make a case for the superiority of artificial intelligence (AI) over human intelligence, consider this – Joe Biden named Kamala Harris as his Artificial Intelligence Czar. Harris once famously proclaimed, “Because as we all know, elections matter. And when folks vote, they order what they want. And in this case they got exactly what they asked for in me and President Biden.”
This reminds me of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, “The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
On their website, IBM describes AI like this: “Artificial intelligence leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.” IBM cites definitions of AI taken from Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, published by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig. These definitions differentiate computer systems on the basis of rationality and thinking vs. acting. They include the human approach, which are systems that think like humans and act like humans and the ideal approach, which are systems that think rationally and act rationally.
The problem with the human approach is that humans aren’t rational – as evidenced by the current state of the world. President Biden made this statement upon appointing Harris as AI Czar, “Kamala is responsible to monitor AI’s rapid growth and ensure that its information meets our criteria, and it does not negatively impact this administration’s objectives or its objectives.”
That is not rational (not to mention poor grammar). It is political. A rational statement might have been, “Vice President Harris is responsible for monitoring AI’s rapid growth and ensuring that its information meets our nation’s criteria and does not negatively impact our nation’s objectives.” The decision to name Kamala Harris as Artificial Intelligence Czar was not rational. It was political.
Politics permeates every facet of our lives. As much as we’d like to believe we think rationally and act rationally, nothing could be further from the truth. Do the people running major corporations make rational decisions? Can you say Bud Light? And these are supposed to be really smart people. What’s worse is that the rationale they used to create their disastrous marketing debacle permeates the board rooms and executive suites of countless corporations.
AI has the power to dramatically improve the world. It has tremendous possibilities for agriculture. Werner Vogels, chief technology officer and vice president of Amazon, claims companies like Aquabyte are using AI to gather data on fish to detect the presence of disease and other problems that hurt yield. That is rational. Vogels goes on to say this will lead to the consumption of more fish than beef, which is good because, in his words, “we know how damaging cattle farming is” to the environment. That is not rational. It is promoting misinformation to support a political agenda. That is not the ideal approach.
In a perfect world, AI would balance the human and the ideal. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov delved into this subject in his robot-themed series of books. He created what are called the Three Laws of Robotics:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Since the robots in Asimov’s works are guided by artificial intelligence, could they be adapted and modified for AI?
“I have my answer ready whenever someone asks me if I think that my Three Laws of Robotics will actually be used to govern the behavior of robots, once they become versatile and flexible enough to be able to choose among different courses of behavior,” Asimov said. “My answer is, ‘Yes, the Three Laws are the only way in which rational human beings can deal with robots – or with anything else.’ But when I say that I always remember (sadly) that human beings are not always rational.”
And that is the problem with AI. It would be ideal if it weren’t so human.