Artificial Intelligence can be found in every aspect of our lives. From A-level grade predicting algorithms to Netflix recommendations, AI is set to change the choices we make and how our personal information will be used. In this episode, we explore the future of AI - its potential benefits and harms - with our three guests. Beth Singler told us about the different cultural consequences of AI, and how the way we think about the future of AI reflects more about society today than the future itself. John Zerilli shared his views on the consequences of AI for democratic decision-making, and Richard Watson urged us to conceive of the future of AI in terms of ‘scenario planning’, rather than predicting the future directly. We cover topics ranging from how to make AI ‘ethical’, how the media representation of AI can colour the public’s perception of what the real issues are, and the importance of an international AI regulatory system.
This episode was produced by Nick Saffell, James Dolan and Naomi Clements-Brod. Annie Thwaite and Charlotte Zemmel provide crucial research and production support for Series 2.
[02:46] - machine learning and AI as the same thing?
[04:31] - Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)
[04:47] - AI in our everyday lives- it’s everywhere!
[06:07] - effect of different patterns on AI e.g. COVID-19 anomalies
[06:46] - we need human flexibility to respond to these changing patterns
[07:27] - what is a futurist in residence?
[08:37] - the only certainty with the future is that it is uncertain. There are lots of futures out there. Being a futurist is all about debating and scenario planning
[09:41] - should every organization have an AI and futurist officer?
[10:09]- how we think about the future as reflecting on what we think about the present
[10:54]- Alvin Toffler and 20th-century futurism
[11:55]- futurism and AI. AI dialogue needs to be about its impact on the future
[12:54]- running out of humans?
[13:33]- AI in care homes
[13:38]- Time for the first recap!
[17:55]- the relationship between AI and religion, and the cultural impact of AI
[19:58]- cultural animation and AI receptivity- not a simple relationship
[20:35]- being ‘blessed’ and ‘cursed’ by the algorithm
[22:04]- democracy and AI. How are we to expect citizens to be informed enough to exercise their voting rights in the best way?
[23:28]- Cambridge Analytica and drastic changes in voting. How much does and should the public know?
[25:45]- what opportunities do people have to get informed about AI?
[27:30}- what do the people who are creating AI need to hear?
[27:40]- ‘open AI’ and the need for public access to AI algorithms
[28:59]- Digital trust and who gets to own data
[29:27]- AI and moral responsibility. This is where the religious aspects enter the AI debate.
[30:25]- the ‘deontological approach: building an AI ‘rulebook’
[31:25]- problem with ‘ethical AI’ is that we don’t really know what an ethical human is.
[32:27]- Time for recap number two!
[37:00]- a post-pandemic world and changing human interactions
[38:35]- the ‘Hello Barbie’ robot. Is it socially acceptable for children to be raised by machines?
[39:00]- the hackability of home products
[40:25]- corporations who produce ‘smart’ products can be using data to change our choice architecture
[42:00]- the public understanding of algorithmic bias
[44:06]- media coverage of AI and the fear of apocalypse
[45:01]- loss of free agency… or did we never have any?
[46:00]- to what extent is our skillset being degraded because of AI?
[46:25]- imagining a post-work future. Wall-e or Startrek?
[47:10]- the utopian/dystopian tension
[50:45]- science fiction and its reflective role in society
[52:35]- moving to solutions for combatting AI issues
[53:00]- the importance of regulation and antitrust laws
[55:00]- the tension between national and international AI codes of conduct
[58:05]- Thinking about the benefit of AI can teach us about what makes a good life
[58:20]- concluding summary
Beth Singler@BVLSingler is a social and digital anthropologist. She is currently a Junior Research Fellow in artificial intelligence at Homerton College, Cambridge. Her research explores the social, ethical, philosophical, and religious implications of advances in AI and robotics. She has produced a series of documentaries on AI, including “Pain in the Machine”, which received the AHRC Research in Film Award in 2017.
Richard Watson is the Futurist-In-Residence at the Entrepreneurship Centre at Judge Business School. His research is focused on technology and the future and how AI will impact businesses and organisations. He founded the website, “What’s Next” in order to help organisations think about the emerging risks and opportunities that AI brings.
Is there any ‘further reading’ you can suggest to listeners?
In Our Image by George Zarkadakis.
Will AI Replace Us? by Shelly Fan
AI by Margaret Bowden
2011: Living in the Future (1972) by Geoffrey Hoyle
The Usborne Book of the Future: A Trip to the Year 2000 and Beyond (1979)