Artificial Intelligence: Big Brother’s watching you


Dave Deruytter looks at Artificial Intelligence and the possible future obsolescence of… us.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been on the innovation radar for quite some time. Big data coupled with ever faster quantum computers are the two big drivers of the AI advancement today. Big Brother has been around for much longer. It was not only the title of a book by George Orwell, the ‘state’ has regularly been dubbed Big brother in many countries – the all-knowing and all-seeing eye, like God to some.

Calls for privacy by us humans seem to have been around forever, or calls for forgiveness for believers. So why is AI and Big Brother again and very prominent on the radar today?

The pace of robotization has increased, not only in industry but more importantly Artificial Intelligence in the medical and the service sector.

Technology in the field of big data analysis and management has improved dramatically. Google is particularly very strong in this field, but all the Cloud and other big data players follow suit, including the Chinese Alibaba and Tencent.

Quantum computers are becoming ever faster and more powerful.

And probably the most special and scary, are new improvements in Machine Learning. Yes, machines learning from machines. There are talks of the fact that a certain test had to be stopped recently (the robot had to be ‘killed’) because the testers could no longer understand the robot and the latter kept on learning by itself without anybody knowing or understanding what it was learning.

Artificial Intelligence depends on what you call intelligence on one hand, and what you name artificial on the other. Intelligence seems to orbit around self-determination, self-development. To be able to act and learn in an independent way, without being told to or how. Artificial comes from the pretentious idea of humans that we are the only ones who have natural intelligence or at least much more than anybody or anything else. We are the masters of the universe, or at least of the blue planet.

Sadly, with the way innovation is going, it seems more and more likely that robots will take over ever more jobs and tasks. Will those jobs be replaced by other interesting ones as happened after the industrial revolution? Good question. But a positive answer is maybe a bit early given that the idea comes from blunt comparison with a similar event in the past and linear extrapolation towards the future. Innovation is not linear and not comparable with anything, because it comes from trial and error. With the ever-increasing memory capacity and procession speed, anything can be copied – so why not intelligence? Computer programs beat us at chess and even at mahjong.

Still real intelligence has also to do with learning to recognize patterns, to prioritize, to focus, to short circuit and to learn by doing. But why would robots not be able to do so? Gut feeling is rarely the best driver of a business anyway, at least not over longer periods of time.