When you think of or even hear the word AI, what comes to your mind? Sentient robots taking over the world?
Humans locked up in a cage ruled by our techno overlords? or something much milder like Siri or Alexa? Well, let me crush your unrealistic nightmares and tell you that the first two pop-up images are not very realistic at all, not with our current technological advancements at least, not yet *cue thunder sound effect*.
What an average person thinks about when they hear the word AI is usually an overblown idea of what AI is.
First, let us break that word now, Artificial Intelligence, an intelligence that is not organic, that is not born from the breeding of two life forms, but it is something that has been created by two hands and a computer that is all there is to it.
An AI is just a computer that has been instructed to process information alone by several repeated data sorting processes. Technically, sorting the information called “iteration” and error correction on each repetition of the process until the computer understands what’s right and what’s wrong in that particular context.
This concludes the discussion. That’s it; you now know what an AI is; not exactly earth-shattering, is it?
Well, don’t worry too much about that, because I’m here to show you how amazing it is, but the first time for a history lesson… Oh, hold your whining! don’t worry I’m not asking you to remember what year the Crimean war took place in, but more of a, ‘It all started when…’ sort of history lesson.
In 1957, Frank Rosenblatt, an American psychologist, invented ‘Perceptron’, a type of neural network, or what you know as the brain, except it was composed purely of ‘artificial neurons’.
He was inspired by the work of neuroscience in the 1940s, which led him to create a crude replication of the neurons in the brain. I know, freaky right, too wouldn’t want a psychologist to up and say “wow I love the brain, let’s make a fake one” but I digress.
Rosenblatt tried to design many different layouts and eventually developed what he called the ‘alpha perceptron’. A three-layer series-coupled (or joint) network where the three layers included the input (or the information you feed to it) and output layer (the information you receive after the computer has done its ‘magic’ on it).
However, computers at the time would have been too slow to run the perceptron, so Rosenblatt built a special-purpose machine with adjustable resistors (potentiometers) controlled by little motors.
The apparatus was able to learn to classify different images of shapes or letters back in those days. A machine that could identify objects was basically witchcraft, so much so that the New York Times reported on Rosenblatt’s Perceptron as
“The Navy revealed the embryo of an electronic computer that it expects will be able to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its existence.”
But this could not have been far from the truth. The media spewed headlines about the perceptron as though it would bring about the next robotic renaissance. In reality, all it could do was identify an object to be a particular shape, and in our current era, we are still in a similar situation.
What happened next after the development of the perceptron was, can you guess?… nothing…? Funding for AI was reduced, and the development of AI during this period was referred to as “The AI Winter.”
An aptly named period, when nothing new came about from the field of Artificial intelligence, and rightly so, because with the perceptron.
Rosenblatt needed to “show” the computer what each shape was like, and that meant scanning hundreds of pictures of objects of different shapes and “correcting” the computer every time it identified a shape erroneously.
This process of trial and error is the core principle behind every single AI. You shove a bunch of information, or data, rather into a computer, and it processes all the data to make a correlation between each piece.
So from that, it is clear that more data equals better accuracy, and back in the 1950s, we just did not have enough data for computers to process and hence AI saw no practical use.
However, the situation in our current era is vastly different because we have too much data now.
That’s right, you heard me, we stockpiled so much grain through the winter that there was enough to feed everyone and their mothers fat; and so, we now see the BOOM of AIs, where literally everything runs on an AI, from search engines to the posts that are displayed on your Instagram feed, everything now incorporates AIs into it purely because of the vast amount of data out there, which leads me to my next topic.
The Dark Side of AI
While scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, have you ever noticed that you recommended a baby shampoo ad that you googled because you heard it makes your hair soft and fluffy? Me too, me!!!!!
That’s the work of an AI. The Facebook algorithm was fed information about you wanting to buy a certain item, and it is now being presented to you on the app that you use most frequently, for the sole purpose of increasing the chances of you buying said product.
Now, after you’ve given in to your weak-willed self and eventually buy the baby shampoo, you may wonder how did it even know you wanted to buy it in the first place?
Details of that are a bit grimmer, see, now, with our smartphones being used everywhere from your office to when you’re using the bathroom so you could scroll through your feed while you finish your umm… business…
What you do, or more technically your personal data is being collected by the very apps you use to keep you busy in the toilet.
Every time you open an app, that piece of data is recorded. How many hours you spend on it, what you do, the pages you visit, the pictures you like, the posts you comment on, the pose that you thought you looked cute in and decided to post but realized you look fat in and ended up deleting everything is being recorded every step of the way. Even if you think you delete it, it has been stored on some server farm, probably somewhere in the middle of the Sahara.
And if you think this is limited just to social media, then you’re dead wrong.
Notice how every time you search something on google it auto completes the search for you, and sometimes it’s exactly what you’re looking for; how you may ask? Your personal data being recorded is the answer.
Giant tech companies like Amazon, Facebook, google or apple, rely on that data to run their AIs. Your personal data is the new gold. It’s what drives our current world because advertisers love your data so that they could use it on their AIs to learn more about your behaviour and sell you their products at the moment in time where you’re most vulnerable and most susceptible to buying it.
In 2017, two Australian Facebook executives researched on exploiting posts by kids as young as 14 to show how its algorithms could help advertisers pinpoint emotionally vulnerable moments for targeted ads.
They intended on showing ads to emotionally vulnerable children. I reiterate, children when they are at their lowest because all that matters to big wigs in suits and ties sitting in their penthouses is loading their pockets with your money. And that’s not all. There’s an awful number of similar incidents where a company has been accused of spying on you through their apps.
All of your data, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, is virtual gold to those advertisers because that data can be fed into an AI which can determine where you live, what your daily routine is, or what you’re likely to eat for lunch.
This sends shivers down my spine because this is what AI can do to advertise products to you. Now imagine if the corporate bigwigs decided to weaponize AI.
I pray that the future doesn’t turn more dystopian than it already is.
An article published recently, details how location-tracking apps, record more than just your location, based on where you go, it determines your religion, your socio-economic situation, ethnicity and health, all because of the double-edged sword that is, AI.
Remember, these are just two out of thousands of incidents like this that I’ve referenced.
Recently, An article was published explaining how location-tracking apps record more than just your location based on where you go. It determines your religion, socio-economic status, ethnicity and health, all because of the double-edged sword of AI.
Remember, these are just two out of thousands of incidents like this that I’ve referenced.
This is how AIs are used, in our modern world, to send targeted ads to you, so you’re more likely to buy them, to extract information about you from the apps you use, that you grant permission to because you cannot use the app without doing so.
We are mice trapped in a large glass box by the corporate overlords that run the world, and there is no fighting the system.
Always remember this quote,
“If a product is free, you’re most probably the product.”
I realize that that might’ve not been the best note to end on, but I had to, for making you realize the gravity of the situation we are in. Keep yourself safe. Limit what you post online.
I also acknowledge that not every AI out there is used for twisted inhumane purposes. However, I chose to bring to your attention that not everything out in the real world is sunshine and roses because, in places where the sun doesn’t shine, things grow, that must not be nurtured, that must be stunted and pruned.
Maybe this might inspire you to bring about much-needed change and regulation in the future, for the sake of what’s good.