Artificial Perception

dyspotian futureI’ve been listening to educational technology hype recently with an eyebrow raised particularly in respect to the ideas being expressed around artificial intelligence and the role of intelligent agents to replace humans. One of the most recent examples of this is Mark Zuckerberg at F8 conference saying ““Our goal with AI is to build systems that are better than people at perception.” The Telegraph provides a summary of his keynote and the F8 conference.

Sit back and reflect on his statement for a moment.

    the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
    “the normal limits to human perception”
    the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.
    “Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public”

What is perception? – a personal view of the world? – shaped by our emotional state and environment? – An entirely subjective reality. What do we mean by better perception? is this seeing the world logically without the trappings of emotion? – is it about the ‘wisdom of crowds? – If it’s the latter then we know that this is being gradually debunked because we are seeing greater confirmation bias within social media circles, I referred to this in a previous post as ripples in the pond, and there is evidence of the undermining effect of social influence. However there is no doubt that artificial intelligence will have access to a greater dataset and will have the ability to interpret data in ways that would be impossible to humans. My question though might be is that going to translate into better outcomes?

crucibleInvention comes from creative friction, discourse, questioning. In a world where we are all synthesized down within a crucible above the flame of artificial intelligence what happens to inspiration. interpretation. challenge? – this is of course a dyspotian future that people in the AI world are keen to promote because it creates a big dream of the future and a strong emotional connection.

But we do need to be concerned because at a minimum a possible future predicted by Gartner may see smart machines replacing millions of humans but at the same time we should be rational because we must recognize the Myths around AI’s and their usefulness is in support human endeavours, especially around tackling big data challenges.

…so what of humanity?



What is being human?

I read this article today by James Haugland who was the the “Company Philosopher” for a production of the The Adding Machine. I think it’s interesting that he shares some of my concerns about how people can be diminished by doing everything remotely and via technology.

“Today, technology is everywhere. From microwaves, to cell phones, to your car’s dash board- technological innovations have permeated virtually every aspect of our lives. But where does this path that society has chosen lead? More than eighty years ago, Elmer Rice offered an answer to this question. He predicted the “super-hyper adding machine”, a creation so advanced that it would function with almost no human intervention. Like the latest techno-toys of today, it would attempt to make our lives easier and more efficient. In reality though, inventions such as these only serve to distort and deform the act of living. Take your desktop computer, for example. You can check the weather, pay your taxes, chat with old friends, and basically interact with the world all from the lonely isolation of your empty little room. Like Rice’s “super-machine”, these tools that pretend to broaden our scope only diminish our humanity. They seek to bring the world to us but in effect, they only push the real world of human interaction and understanding even further away.
As theater artists, it is our responsibility to explore human nature; to ask- “what does it mean to be human?” Perhaps society should pause a moment and consider — we cannot create tools to enhance humanity if we do not understand what it means to be human. We insist on racing along toward some undefined destination of bigger, faster, better. Why? To what end? How can we travel so zealously in one direction if we don’t even know where we are now? Technology has unimaginable potential and ultimately, it is the only thing that can ‘save’ humankind from the natural cycles of the universe. But we must be cautious. We must insist that technological development remains consistent with our individual values and our collective goals. Rice’s observations were relevant in the 1920s but they are of paramount importance at the dawn of the 21st century.