We hear and read about it everywhere these days.
You hear people saying, "The future is now."
"We have to give way to technology."
"We'll be better off and live better lives (maybe not even work) if we let AI do it."
Yes, technology is here, and we are living at the dawn of the age of AI, and it's a topic that we've seen and heard a lot more about this year.
I wonder what the opportunities will be for the average person. You know, the person who is not the founder of Facebook, Google or Amazon, which have placed such high barriers to entry that it will be rare for companies to break into that stratospheric league.
What's Going to Happen with Humans?
Do you wonder what's going to happen to the average person? AI are taking over customer service, writing, design, sales, law, and medicine. As a businessman and social entrepreneur, the reality is that if you're looking at things in a purely bottom-line manner, using AI could make a whole lot of sense. They never get sick. They work 7/27/365. They never stop and can indeed produce more than any human can – in a lifetime. From a pure dollars and cents perspective, AI can make a lot of sense.
But then you have to wonder about the broader implications of AI, and I sense that society has not even started to get its head around the implications. If you pay even a little attention to the news, then you know that a few months ago Facebook engineers shut down and pulled the plug on AI that decided on its own to go ahead and develop a new language. It was more efficient for them to get the work done, but humans did not understand. It seems that the language was basic, but what happens if the AI had not been shut down? Would they have developed a highly sophisticated way to communicate and operate that completely excised human?
I agree that technology can be beneficial to society. I think most people would agree that we'd prefer to send a bot into a dangerous situation, say war, rather than ask our men and women to put their lives on the line. I think there's something to be said for the rapidly expanding role of robotics in medicine. For example, the fact that we've started to print human organs with 3D is a significant advancement, and we have to hope that many lives will be saved.
The Deeper Issues Related to AI
My concern as I dig deeper into the issue of AI is what the implications are for the human race, and yes, that even includes how we in the philanthropic sector connect with each other and with the world we serve. As I noted in the previous article I wrote, the Partnership on AI, which is a collaborative effort between mega-companies such as Facebook, Apple, Google and leading non-profits such as UNICEF and Human Rights are trying to lead the conversation about the implications of AI in all of our lives.
If you tune in even a little bit into the conversation about AI, you know that we have to deal with many issues, including some of the following:
- Safety: We don't want to be in a situation where AI is created, and it is not obligated to protect human life.
- Transparency: We had the recent situation with Facebook where they shut down AI, but who rules (government or business) when someone says "Houston, we have a problem"?
- Labor and the Economy: Whose responsibility is it to train people as AI develops and what will their work functions be in light of a much more powerful AI partner? Will people even have jobs?
- Society: For communities around the world, which certainly includes nonprofit and philanthropic work, what will be the impact of AI on philanthropy, education, charitable work, science, private / public partnerships, etc.
The reality seems to be apparently developing that there are few areas – if any – that AI will not touch.
Humanity's Competitive Advantage
When I read about issues related to AI, I think of one thing – humanity. I believe we all have to get into the conversation now about the implications of AI. I'm someone who likes and values people precisely because we are imperfect. There is a lot of prose and poetry in the human condition. AI cannot love, demonstrate courage, hope, dream, feel fear, etc.
In my mind, those qualities are what makes humans so much better than AI. Our values are our competitive advantage in comparison to AI. There is something intrinsic within people (some call it a soul or spirit, others connect the scientific dots of all the elements that make up our brains, hearts, and bodies) that makes us unique, and yes, even exceptional.
We have a serious conversation that has to take place about AI, but it involves all humans, and we have to pay attention before we have a situation we did not bargain for in the age of technology.
The Path for Humanity as it Greets AI
In many ways, I hope that AI begins to break down the things that divide us and that we discover that as humans, we are all the same. We are. Take away the issues of money, race, religion, gender and everything else; we all bleed red.
We all hurt.
We all hope.
We all dream.
The way I see it, the time is now for humanity. It can be our finest hours at the dawn of a new age – provided we all get out of our own way and engage in a global dialogue about humanity in the age of AI.