Deus Ex Machina

Singularity and a World Impacted by Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The past has mysteries that may unravel in the future or stay hidden. The present abounds with debates. But, the future IS a debate. Perhaps, an existential issue considering advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“Will AI ultimately threaten or empower humans?” is a question that has acquired an alarming urgency across the globe.

AI 101

Typically, in simplistic terms, AI is reverse engineering the human brain. It learns by creating Artificial Neural Networks (ANN’s)

(Source: wikipedia)

Each point in the diagram above is like an axon in the human brain.

Neural Networks solve problems just like the human brain can but still have not reached the level of the brain. They have marked a shift away from symbolic AI (use of if then statments to create expert systems) in the way AI systems are being designed.

Deep Learning is being used to move ANN’s away from use of boolean variables. Neural Networks are thus becoming deeper.

Agnostics, with part of their beliefs firmly grounded in science, are also seeking spiritual answers to futuristic questions. While it is foolhardy to tackle the ramifications of AI in a single story or to attempt to answer the question itself, it is useful to consider frameworks that guide thinking.

The Past

The field of Artificial Intelligence truly emerged in 1956 at a conference at Dartmouth college. Marvin Minsky alongwith his peers from CMU and MIT became the lead researchers in AI. Marvin Minsky thought that by the end of a generation, AI would outsmart humans.

However , funding for AI especially in the US and UK, stopped for a while (AI winter)before beginning again.

The age of intelligent machines, released in 1990, is a work of non fiction by Ray Kurzweil that depicts the history and frameworks of AI.

On May 11, 1997, IBM Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. However, by some accounts what Kasparov thought of a master stroke turned out to be a bug in the software. The computer used a random move that flummoxed Kasparov.

Professor Kevin Warwick, from the University of Reading in the UK, implanted chips in his body to research human machine interface. In 1999, Guinnes Book of World Records listed the first experiment of robot learning by internet. The robot learnt to move not because of a human program but another robot taught it to move.

The Present

Machines have been programmed to perform sophisticated trading in the stock exchanges particularly algorithmic and highfrequency trading. Both these types of trading are less susceptible to human errors because machines don’t feel tired. Technology, including fiber optic cables has allowed the setting up of private stock exchanges for sophisticated investors called Dark Pools.

There is weak AI which is very similar to robotic process automation (RPA) and helps in automating mundane tasks. This technology, while implying reskilling of displaced labor, is overall advantageous to humanity by releasing time for higher order tasks.

Quantum computing will exponentially increase storage capacity using ‘qubits’ which can hold 2 bits using superdense coding. A qubit is a subatomic particle that unlike bits, can have values of 0,1 and values in between. Quantum computers, its predicted will be commercially spreading in the next 5 years. @Add the operation of Moore’s law which implies processing power will double every two years, it would take approximately 18–20 years for AI to outpace humans. This idea seems terrifying to many. It’s like the human race just fell off a computing cliff.

For the current state of the art on AI, the partnership on AI (partnershiponai.com) symbolises the efforts of Google , IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook along with other partners.

IBM Watson can beat humans in ‘Jeopardy’, Google Deep Mind beat the world champion in the Korean game of ‘GO’ in 2016. However, these feats are still far away from the power of the massively parallel computer called the human brain.

CBinsights compiled a list of the most promising 100 startups in the field of AI based on its proprietary algorithm.

A snapshot of the top 50 is depicted below:

(Source: Fortune Magazine)

As per Quid(Quid.com) and as reported by Bloomberg, AI and online security have attracted the most capital in the recent past:

Speaking of startups, Satoshi Nakamoto , aka the mysterious creator of the digital currency Bitcoin comes to mind. Digital currencies were thought of as a replacement to cash. However , cash or the currency guaranteed by the central bank is a much more stable store of value than Bitcoin and it’s ilk. Digitization of physical currency has progressed at blinding speed yet it has not replaced cash.

According to the World Payments Report from Capegemini, cash is still king:

While cash maybe an unfair analogy to human beings, the limited point I am making is that machines and humans may coexist peacefully.

The future

Verner Vinge coined the term ‘Singularity’ to denote a moment in time when computers and robots outsmart humans. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is synonymous with singularity.

Shards of Glass Don’t A Crystal Ball Form: For most people including experts in the field of AI, it’s hard to discern the future. So, instead of a crystal ball, everyone has a shard of glass but doesn’t know how to connect it into a crystal ball. However, it may be useful to consider the various thoughts racing through different minds to begin forming your own opinion. Though, this effort, I have to warn, may be taxing.

Life 2.0

Machine Intelligence, an application of AI, is already transforming every facet of life including how we bank.

The Body

In medicine, Prosthesis is growing limbs for humans and helping people walk and move. Intelligent nanobots can be programmed to solve ailments. Nothing short of magic if you ask me.

Your Home

Imagine your home as a living entity. 5G is predicted to be a game changer and an infection point for a true internet of things. In short, your television, thermostat, refrigerator, music systems and lighting will be controlled by Intelligence embedded in chips and powered by a superhighway of networks. Alexa, Siri, Cortana will become smarter and more human.

Shopping

VR and AR will allow you to turn your home into a giant shopping centre. You can even shop for a home without ever leaving your rented apartment.

Chatbots are helping people shop online and make decisions seamlessly.

Cars

Cars will be autonomous after legal, technological and regulatory questions are solved for freeing up time for work or conversations while in transit. Apple’s entry in the autonomous var market is symbolic of corporations vying to be present all time every time.

Work

Countries need to add strategies such providing free education, for example through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s), offering tuition subsidies and unemployment benefits for displaced workforce. Canada has already allocated funding and resources to this end.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will change the concept of travel and education. corporations are already using hololens for trading equities across markets.

At the workplace, mundane jobs such as filling forms, clerical processes, completing rule based tasks are already being automated by robots by a process called Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Jobs of auditors and lawyers are being automated. AI will enable auditors to check all transactions instead of adopting a sample approach.

Ultimately, tasks with a high level of instinct or judgement will be the last to be automated if automating such thinking is possible at all.

Advent of the Cyborgs

Augmented Reality (AR) comes very close to adding digital capabilities to human senses. The beauty of AR is that you dont need a headset to augment reality.

Elon Musk seems to think Cyborgs or cybernetic organisms that combine human biology with digital technology are the future. In the Hollywood movie Ex Machina, an android is portrayed as being able to out maneuver human thinking.

So, as per this view of the future, if humanity were to survive, it has to merge with superior computers.

A Matter of Faith

Perhaps, the detonation of the nuclear bomb was an inflection point for Oppenheimer and Einstein to seek refuge in religion to provide solutions to the problems modern physics created. Einstein once said:

‘I am not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”

“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.”

Oppenheimer’s reference to Lord Shiva, the destroyer of worlds alludes to a power capable of destroying the world. In the Mahabharata (an Indian Poem written in Sanskrit) which was written approximately 400 BCE and which talks about the battle between the Kauravas (100 brothers) and Pandavas (5 brothers) talks about a weapon called Brahmanda Astra which has the power to destroy the entire universe. The Mahabharata itself is open to many interpretations considering its the longest poem in the world – 1.8 million words or ten times the length of Illiad and the Odyssey combined.

In other words, the advent of technological singularity could be part of a cycle of creative destruction followed by creation of a new word order for humans will be playing god by then.

Conclusion

It is wise to follow leading AI thinkers such as Baidu’s Andrew Ng who was leading Google’s machine leearning efforts.

Ironically, it will take machines devoid of empathy (atleast today) to teach us empathy and compassion. For humans, cooperation and partnership seem like the only way forward.AI is a reality. It’s time to draw up plans to deal with it. Singularity may happen in a decade or more but planning for the future has to begin right now. Imagine various speeds of automation and create plans to address the changes. The plan has to be a worldwide plan thus making cooperation inevitable.

Employers need to create training plans to continuously reskill labor to avoid obsolescence. Lifelong learning just changed its status from a buzzword to an unavoidable reality.

It is possible to view genetics as an attempt to recreate the human body and Artificial Intelligence as recreating the brain. But, can instinct be recreated? The answer to this question will yield an answer to a follow up question – will AI be Deus Ex Machina (a benevolent god from a machine) or A apparatus exspiravit (a ghost from a machine)? For all of us, I lean towards Deus Ex Machina. Think of this – do digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and it’s ilk have the capability to replace cash? Cash seems to be king now but maybe it will be relegated to secondary status later. The reason is the relative stability as a store of value that cash or cards offer that Bitcoin cannot. It’s a highly speculative currency.

But before AI becomes benevolent, humans must be selfless. Machines are apolitical. It’s very funny – most people around the world feel humans are teaching machines to be human but I feel it’s the other way around – machines are teaching us to be human. A return to a different kind of AI- Artificial Innocence.

Writer @ The Intersection of Finance, Tech & Humanity. Stories of a Global Language: “Money”. Contributor @ Startup Grind, HackerNoon, HBR. Twitter@akothari_mba