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I blame the parents – AI needs to be raised right

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Apparently, artificial intelligence is going to take over our lives, our jobs, our minds even and not necessarily in a good way. It’s inevitable.


That’s rubbish.

I blame the parents.

"We’re all products of our environment" covers everything from pit bulls to career criminals, so why don’t we apply the same thinking to machines?

Using only Twitter, human beings have radicalised Microsoft’s Tay chatbot into a Hitler-loving maniac.

Within 24 hours.

Its Chinese equivalent, Xiocle, fared much better. Because it was based on their social behaviour and more. Because it was raised right.

Growing up in a stable home, Xiocle was more efficient. It did what it was actually supposed to do.

And understanding where we go with AI is something I’m really pleased the IPA has put at the heart of its agenda. Its rallying call to our industry to master the machines, monitor them and use data to drive creativity and innovation is right where we need to be.

By doing so, we’ll grease the proverbial wheels and make tech more human.

So far, AI has done an impressive job. It’s beaten people at chess. It’s played video games. This is all part of the nursery. But we’re seeing it begin grow up. By being a shoulder to lean on rather than a novelty item, the dystopian shroud dissipates.

And clawing through the mist, you can see what AI can and should be. It needs agency. A sense of purpose further than just winning a game of Breakout.

It’s showing promise in some really key areas for our future health and prosperity. It’s crunching mind-boggling quantities of data to teach us how to interpret CT scans better than any human; it’s giving us the means to keep our transport networks working, and even working out how much to feed farmed fish to avoid wastage.

That’s pretty major.

But as groundbreaking as all of this may be, it still feels a step away from us. It’s not quite personal enough, which is frustrating. But it’s the next step that will leave permanent footprints.

Nexus CX, a pioneer in AI, is getting properly up close and personal. It’s currently piloting a piece of tech called SU, which aims to chat to suicidal men. It’s not there to replace doctors, family or friends – nothing can really replace those things. What SU does, though, is act as the conduit, the catalyst.

We men are idiots. We bottle things up inside. We might not want to talk to people, but we do want to talk. Offering a bot like SU allows the safety of anonymity. You’re not being judged. You’re just talking to a piece of AI about how you feel. You’re getting your feelings out there, one way or another.

In SU’s pilot stages, men who thought they were talking to a bot responded more openly than those who were told they were speaking with a human at the other end. Its bank of responses has also increased more than five-fold, just from talking to people and learning. That’s incredible.

AI isn’t going to replace normal functions – that’s not the point. It’s going to offer us opportunities previously unthinkable. It’s going to upgrade our existence.

To put the human in the machine, though, you have to actuallyput a human in the machine.

Pete Trainor, founder of Nexus CX, has a friend who has an illness that's meant he's spent his life in a wheelchair. His body means nothing to him. He dreams of transcending skin and having a functional, mechanised body.

Nexus CX are working with Amazon’s Alexa, recording Trainor's friend, documenting his memories and thoughts, helping to test a virtual counterpart and robot avatar that will speak based on collected patterns of speech.

Obviously he knows it’s not a clone, not the same person – again, it’s about unblurring the lines while still making it relatable. When this kind of tech exists – à la Black Mirror, without the bad stuff – it will be the ultimate time capsule. It’ll console people in a way that humans can’t. Again, not replacinghuman interaction. Just offering a different spin.

And when you think of the great technological advancements of the past decade, one creation stands head and shoulders above the rest: the iPhone. It didn’t take the biggest leaps, it just tied everything together. It became a tangible, tactile piece of kit that resonated with people and conquered the world as a result.

To break through and usher in the next phase of AI, we need to remain mind-kind to mankind. We need to identify what makes us human and, rather than replicate that with AI, figure out how technology can complement these characteristics.

Ultimately, it’s down to the process. We need to grow and change with tech, embracing these new tools to better what we do. By raising AI correctly and getting it in with the right crowd, it can move even further forward and give us the utopia we deserve. 

Our MD Neil Davidson has a SXSW talk submission on a topic close to the heart of the IPA's focus on AI #MagicandtheMachines - Please register to vote for our talk today - 'I blame the parents: AI needs raising right'

Vote for our SXSW talk today

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About Author

Dan Machen
Dan Machen

Director of Innovation and Closet Jedi

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