When the former MD of former Etisalat Nigeria sent me this article on privacy and artificial intelligence from the Economist – What machines can tell from your face, I was intrigued. I had met him at a reception and we spent quite a bit of time discussing cryptocurrencies and how our world is changing as a result.
After reading the article, the following is what I replied and I thought I’d just put it on my blog. People after reading this will either think I am mad or really brilliant. Either way I’ll still be me.
Our world is constantly changing. It’s called evolution. This is the state we have been in since God declared, let there be light! And there was.
Trying to stop it is myopic. Yet that is what we try to do. Everyone, the developed and the developing world at least, is rushing to see who will develop the fastest and then who can control human evolution. Even against each other as we saw when America was caught spying a few years ago. But who didn’t know this and who thinks the others aren’t spying on America?
Unfortunately, I don’t think we the undeveloped world understand this. And then the terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, and dictators like Maduro try to control human evolution by going against it. I believe that the only difference between Europe and American on one side and China and Russia on the other, is that China and Russia are seemingly trying to control their citizens while still trying to allow but control this human evolution through advances in science and technology. The UK and America just give their citizens more leeway. Google staying out of the picture is either a lie, or naive. The animals in 1984 just didn’t have the word ‘lie’ in their vocabulary and so they could avoid it. AI and facial recognition is already in our world. Like I said we cannot stop human evolution.
Secondly, I don’t think people care all that much about their privacy as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram etc., and talk shows and reality shows before, have shown us. When people show the world, complete strangers, their lives, homes, bedrooms and bathrooms, I think we can throw out all pretentions at privacy. I think people want to be SEEN, but they want to control what you see and how you see them.
Thirdly, as we advance, people’s behaviors will change so applying advances in science and technology to current/old behaviors is not the full picture. Smartphones brought the whole selfie craze and texting, and then sexting, but I think as much as almost everyone has a cell phone now, I don’t think actual conversation lengths or meanings have increased. I think we talk less now rather than more, relying more on emojis and short text messages, the shorter the better as people’s attention spans are declining.
Finally, given a choice of man or machine I will choose machine because it will have a higher degree of accuracy unless I want to lie and take my chances trying to deceive my fellow human being into believing I am who I want him or her to believe I am. But given the choice, I will choose someone who truly cares about me and will accept and love me as I am, over that machine.
Now, new thinking on total impact and total value created makes me believe that we will all be alright in the end. So long as we start considering the total impact that all our activities have on our lives and lifestyles, and start trying to maximize the total value created, machines should only continue to add more to our world than they take from it. It’s people we should worry more about.