Week 5

Week 5 — Big Data

The timing was perfect. I took my toddler to story time at the Anchorage Public Library this week and on my way out the door I saw the book The Sentient Machine displayed on the New Non-Fiction shelf. The book was published in 2017 and written by Amir Husain, an inventor and computer scientist. He divides the book into three parts: 1. What is AI?; 2. Today and Tomorrow; 3. The Future. As of today, I’m just about finished with What is AI?

What I have found most interesting is how AI is divided into two parts: artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) and artificial generalized intelligence (AGI). ANI is when machines can do specialized tasks that humans can also do, such as driverless cars, robotics in warehouses, and Siri, Cortana and Alexa on our smart phones and smart speakers. AGI is when machines are just as smart — or even smarter — than humans. Husain writes, “AGI is when computer science and engineering innovations can master two things: intention — or the ability to do grander goal-setting; and self-awareness or sentience (p. 33). Our world has produced examples of ANI but is still working on AGI. And the speed in which AGI happens is still debated among leaders in the artificial intelligence community.

The moment when machines have the ability to think for themselves is what Husain calls the Big Bang. He’s comparing the beginning of the universe to the “first droplet from the fountain of sentience,” he writes. To be considered AGI, an AI system would need to be able to consume huge amounts of Big Data. It would need to learn just like a human learns. The machine would need to understand context, meaning, be self-aware and do things intentionally.

So my question is where would all this Big Data come from? Would it come from us? Is all of our behavior on the Internet right now turning into enormous collections of Big Data for corporations to some day use for powering these sophisticated AI? I would not be surprised whatsoever. It reminds me of a meme that read in regards to the Facebook data breach: “If a product is free, then you are the product.”

Humans have been lured into purchasing and using Internet connected devices/software to make communication more efficient and, of course, to make life easier. But the more I read about AI, the more I think there might come a day when Big Data we give could come back to bite us; it will either make humans useless or — worst case scenario — make us go extinct.

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