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  • Ulf Kurkiewicz

Awareness - the key to supremacy over intelligent machines

The development of Artificial intelligence is rolling on. Obstacles are defeated in expected ways, but sometimes in completely unexpected ways. Ways that can be both good, and bad, or at least a warning flag to us.

There is no doubt that there can be, and actually already are, vast benefits with ”machines” that can help us solve boring, repetitive, dangerous, or even complex work issues. Come up with new and better ways in parts of healthcare, mathematics, knowledge around Universe or in administrative tasks, just as an example. There is not a single area where we could not benefit from support from intelligent ”machines”. This view of Artificial Intelligence is a very positive one. It will provide us humans with the possibility to free up some of our working time to use it in a way that is more beneficial for ourselves and the persons around us. Free time for us to spend with family, friends and so on. It will also help us find solutions of many of the problems with have around us, support us with new solutions of known, or not yet know challenges.

Unfortunately every development brings at least two opposite sides of every invention or solution. Opposing sides that will eventually have both positive, and negative effects of its surroundings. Effects that either has been missed, not been analyzed, or even worse, have been known but neglected. When implications are neglected, for any reason, the outcome can be something that was not what we asked for. There are examples of Artificial Intelligence solutions that has been optimized to fulfill a single task, a task it actually conducts very well, that have huge implications for the ones using the actual system. A system that brings a lot of benefits, but at the same time brings enormous drawbacks for the users at the same time.

An Artificial Intelligence ”machine” could be a strong adversary when it comes to cyber security. Capable of analyzing different systems it is set to brake or intrude. It can also be used in autonomous military assets, as drones or robots. Systems that have been instructed to act independent from human support, if the timeframe for dialogue is to short. There are live examples of drones that have taken ”kill” decisions of its own, without human intervention. Drones from science fiction is already here.

There is a possible dark side connected to that some players in the development field of Artificial Intelligence are so financially strong that it might be impossible for others to compete with development of Artificial Intelligence systems. Leading to a situation with a few that dominates the market, and that harvest most of the money out there. A few players that have collected enormous amount of data about people giving them a big advantage in both the development, but also financial. A situation that might increase inequality on a global level.

Is it all dark then? Of course not. Awareness is rising, and things not on the agenda just a few years ago is now under discussion within governments, authorities and organizations. Topics are on the agenda to understand what need to be done to have the benefits from the development of Artificial Intelligence and at the same time minimize the risks the same system could provide us with, conscious or not.

Initiatives come from different players, and in different areas, all with the same objective. To increase awareness of what is happening in the field right now, possible actions that need to be handled to secure a safe development of Artificial Intelligence that is beneficial for the complete population, not just a few. One thing discussed is the general knowledge about Artificial Intelligence as such. What it is, what it can do, both pros and cons with it. In Finland the University of Helsinki and Reaktor created a free on line course for basics of AI. Later a Swedish University provided the same material in Swedish. Knowledge about Artificial Intelligence is crucial. Increasing the knowledge is equally important for those at school and for the rest of us. Crucial knowledge that has to increase among politicians, decision takers and business leaders.

Another initiative was launched in the United States, and most likely in other countries as well, an initiative that involved discussions about ethics into the education of coming computer science /data engineers with focus on development of Artificial Intelligence. Increasing awareness that there are several ethical aspects to consider when developing Artificial Intelligence systems. This is something that should be discussed among politicians, companies and academia as well.

The Value Alignment problem is another topic that is getting increased attention. Stuart Russell defines the value alignment problem as follows: How can we build autonomous systems with values that “are aligned with those of the human race”. Important question that will be on the radar for a very long time. Lot of implications for development, but an issue that need to be discussed openly.

To make it possible for the small ones to actually be part of the development Artificial Intelligence there is a need to put in place , costly infrastructure; that can be used as development platforms. Helping out, and at the same time diminish the vast advantage that some of the really big ones have. Projects of this kind is emerging but need to have a boost.

Finally there is a need of open discussions, on a global level, around ongoing, and planned, development of Artificial Intelligence. A need of sharing of information, a discussion of globally implemented agreements around one task optimized Artificial Intelligence solutions, as well as agreements around autonomous military assets. It will not be beneficial for anyone to have this kind of assets, with the risk of malfunction, without common understanding. Maybe there is something we can learn about our own way of doing things, and relate to each other during the discussions around what we want Artificial Intelligence to behave in a beneficial and safe way.

One thing is clear, without openness, the need of increased awareness becomes crucial. It actually is super important even with an open exchange of information. Awareness makes you ask the right and the important questions. Increasing awareness to others helps to lift important questions into the agenda of politicians, policy makers and industrial leaders. This question is to important to just let it happen.

Be conscious


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