Author Archives: John Ferry

AI Fighting Crime

What if crime could be stopped before it even happened?  What would the world look like? Thanks to AI, researchers from Stanford University are predicting that this will be a reality in 15 years.  The term used to describe this style of crime-fighting is called “predictive policing.” Through “predictive policing,” artificial intelligence machines will identify pre-existing trends associated with crimes, and use that information to prepare.  For example, if an AI sees a person walking alone in a dark alley, the machine might use this as information to predict a robbery and prepare accordingly. This type of policing can be viewed in a positive light, seeing that it can increase the safety for everyone.  However, it can also be viewed negatively if we look at it through the lens of privacy.  If you think about it, this type of policing is incredibly overbearing.  It sees your every move… are we going to be okay with that? What a lot of people don’t know is that this kind of surveillance is already a reality.  The only difference is that now, the decisions to act can be made quicker, and hopefully more accurately.  

Artificial Art – A Follow-Up

In the blog post “Artificial art (Artificial Intelligence)” major concerns in regards to AI, specifically with art and entertainment were presented: As Artificial Intelligence advances, what will happen to our philosophies on what it means to be human? How will we react when the uniqueness attributed to being human is tested? Will this concern be fulfilled, or are we just over worrying? I think the concern will be fulfilled: in many ways, I think it’s already being fulfilled. It’s subtle, but that’s how disruption always begins. When the question related to humanity becomes more potent, I think there will be two main categories of reaction:

1) We will submit.

My gut tells me that there will be some people who will accept the idea that we are not the center of the universe, and will be so overwhelmingly humbled by it that they will submit completely. These people will either fall into complete despair or absolute joy. Here’s what I mean: Some people will take this idea, say to themselves, “We are not special… we are no different than robots” and stop there. This is a very dark place to be in; these are the people who will feel hopeless. Who can blame them? This is a soul-crushing realization! Of course, assuming there is a soul. With the advancement of AI, I think the validity of the soul will be put into question. If there is no soul, at that point, we are just bodies, right? Chemistry and biology all formed into one blob left to sit and think about how we were wrong about how “special” we are.  I think this mentality is normal when something universally accepted, even if it’s not outwardly spoken, gets tested and seemingly fails.  German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote on topics very similar to this.  He made the observation that “God is dead,” and that “we have killed him.”  This quote was referring to Nietzsche’s observation that people weren’t believing in God like they used to anymore.  This meant that something that acted a huge foundation in their thinking (religion) was gone, and the philosopher knew that something had to replace it or else people would fall into despair.  I think our views on the “irreplaceability” of humanity might fall into a very similar situation as did religion at the time.

Nietzsche’s solution to the problem mentioned above was to believe in the ‘overman‘ – a being above humans that could be achieved through constantly overcoming one’s self.  This is partially what sparked the common self-help movement, and its influence is very present today.  Like I’ve been mentioning before; we hold ourselves in a very high regard.  However, when/if AI knocks us off of our high horse, I think there might be a group of people who will come to the same conclusion as the first group mentioned above, but look to something else for hope. These people, I think, will look towards the very thing Nietzsche said was dead. They will say, “Since ‘me’ isn’t all that special, it’s not about me anymore, it’s about ____.” You can fill in the blank with whatever you want, but I think it will be something religious/spiritual.

2) We will fight

I also believe there will be people who will refuse to submit to the idea that humans aren’t special. They will continue to try and accomplish the overman! I mean, come on… we’re humans! Look at all we’ve done! These people will say, “I will NOT let some robot make a bigger impact on the world than me.” It’s a very narcissistic viewpoint, but my intuition tells me many people will feel this way. These people won’t be at peace or despair; they will be in a constant state of work and improvement. They will constantly be overcoming themselves while trying to keep up with the rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence. A positive element of this mindset is that the human will stays alive. On the other side of the coin, there’s the reality that this goal, to prove ourselves worthy, never ends.

What is AI?

According to Stanford University, artificial intelligence is “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable.” AI is the first step towards self-learning machines that seem to have two main goals: to solve problems and to make tasks easier and more efficient. To do this, it must be a flexible, rational agent that can perceive its environment in order to take actions that maximize its chance of success.

Although AI has power unimaginable to our minds today, it may also have the power in the future to work in a way which prevents the destruction of the human race. Elon Musk, an individual heavily integrated with the creation of several different types of technology, believes that there is a possibility that good can come to the human race by AI.  At the 2016 Code Conference, Musk stated, “If AI power is broadly distributed to the degree that we can link AI power to each individual’s will — you would have your AI agent, everybody would have their AI agent — then if somebody did try to something really terrible, then the collective will of others could overcome that bad actor,” This however, is just Musk attempting to look at the bright side of things and find a way for humans and machines to coexist. We never know how much exactly AI can change our lives in the future. There are still concerns stressed by many, including Elon Musk and Bill Gates in the brevity of artificial intelligence magnitude capabilities exceeding human order. This may be a far-fetched case to spectators prior to an undeveloped understanding of AI such as vivid Hollywood scenarios.

Speaking of artificial intelligence changing our lives, it is already impacting our lives in major ways today; Siri, Echo, Amazon’s purchase predictions, and certain home devices are very common examples of this. Its mark on the world has recently started to grow beyond this, and it’s doing so rapidly. AI’s have already been able to contribute to successfully trialing autonomous vehicles, composing music, writing screenplays, and beating masters at their own game (this and more will be explored more deeply during the course of this project). It’s all very remarkable, but like any progressive movements and advances, there are concerns attached.

The video below discusses the current impact that AI has on our lives and the implications it has for the future, especially the replacement of human labor with AI. The speaker compares it to the impact agriculture had in the world, (which was immense by the way).

At the moment AI is nowhere near having the same powerful cross-domain ability to learn and plan as a human being does. The cortex in our brain has ways of computing that Ai developers have not been able to achieve yet. If human level machine intelligence may arrive sooner than predicted, then will we need any further technological advancements? If super intelligence is achieved, this may be the last if not close to the final invention humanity will need. With such an ability to mature a superintelligence may be able to find a cure for cancer, expand human longevity, or even space colonization. Objective breakthroughs or expeditions can be optimized to steer the future into a state of global sustainability. So what are the limits to an AIs intelligence progression? Is it possible for it to evolve to a point where it wants to surpass humans? In the short term, how will the global economy react when AIs fill in positions that humans used to fill? What if someone with bad intentions gets their hands on a super powerful AI? How will humanity react when the gap between us and machines starts to close? I guess the main question is: What will AIs impact on the world look like in the future? Making solid predictions for the future is something that can now be done since we’re already seeing a taste of it right now.

Melomics Music Composition

When considering art, one must at some point or another question it’s origin and what makes it so special.  Some people believe art comes from something beyond our comprehension; a higher power of some sort.  Others believe that art at its core is a very human thing.  No matter what you believe, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to disrupt your current philosophy and force you to reflect on what it all means.

In 2014, Melomics released 0music – an album composed by an artificial intelligence named Melomics109 without any human intervention whatsoever.  You can watch and listen to one of the songs from the album here.  Now, the music isn’t anything special; it’s no Mozart or Beatles.  However, it’s lack musical greatness doesn’t take away from the magnitude of the step taken.  As we’ve all learned from studying disruption innovation, most disruptive innovations start out unimpressive; that’s why most people don’t pay attention until it’s too late.  As a musician who has studied disruptive innovation, this scares me.  I’m scared of the potential that an AI can reach not just musically, but across every genre of art.  There are even instances where AIs are writing film scripts.  Again, they’re terrible, but that’s not the point.  The point is that it’s a step and a giant one.

There are multiple reasons why this scares me.  I’m scared of an obstacle that I think humanity will face and has faced repeatedly in history.  It’s the same obstacle we faced when we learned that the sun did not revolve around the earth.  When AI achieves a level of artistic creativity that leaves us in awe, I think we will all question how special humans really are.  As of right now, art is very much a reflection of our experiences, and often times an extension of who we are.  When we like a song, we feel connected to the artist – it’s all very grounded in relationships.  How will that change when something that isn’t human does the creating?  What is there to connect with?  I’m also scared because humans are very creative.  We love it! If we didn’t, then there wouldn’t constantly be new innovations, music, movies, etc.  What are we going to do when we don’t have to create anymore because we have machines doing it for us? How will we adapt?  Lastly, to refer back to the question from the beginning of this post: “Who do we owe this tree to?”  I think the evolution of AI will make answering this question even more complicated.