ALS Topic 13 - Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) Good for Us?

Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 21 July 2018 ( )

Note: The questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence! Note: clearly not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.

Focus Questions:


1. What actually is AI (artificial intelligence) in your understanding?

2. Some people working in AI say that they are more afraid of 'smart' gadgets in the home than AI. Why would this be?

3. It was common a couple of decades ago to hear that computers didn't make mistakes, humans did ("rubbish in, rubbish out" was the mantra). To what extent, if at all, has this changed?

4. People already surrender much of their autonomy and trust their lives to conventional computer algorithms (e.g. jet liners are mostly flown by computers, not pilots). However, if AI based systems assume critical control functions, and NOBODY can understand how those AI based systems arrived at choices, are we back in an entirely faith-based civilization like the Middle Ages?

5. How will legal codes have to be written when humans are no longer responsible for critical decisions (e.g. in driverless cars)?

6. There was an acronym popular in the World War II era: 'SNAFU' - 'situation normal, all fucked up'. Rules and regulations would often have been intolerable if applied exactly, but human carelessness, laziness, forgetfulness, kindness ... and so on normally meant that most people could bend the rules enough to live a reasonable human life. How will we cope if every slip and oversight is relentlessly observed and punished in some form of ever-present, impersonal, always correct AI environment?

7. There is a kind of human law of entropy driven by laziness: If someone or something else can do the job, we'll pay to avoid it. If someone or something else can take reponsibility, we'll pay to avoid it. This already means that huge numbers of people drift into a state of being mental and physical slobs. If an AI driven environment becomes capable enough to make all major life decisions, will we surrender autonomy altogether?

8. The Titanic effect : When sophisticated ABS braking systems first appeared in cars their automatic control was supposed to eliminate many accidents. Instead, there were apparently just as many accidents in these cars. Why? The drivers in old rattlers knew when to be careful, but the drivers with ABS braking put their faith in the machine and took more risks. Do you expect this sort of thing to happen as AI takes over more and more functions in life and the workplace?

9. A.I. is being weaponized (like every technical and scientific innovation in history). There is a large chunk of every human group whose first priority is predatory conflict (probably an outcome of evolved sexual display), and no religion or ideology or education has every quite suppressed this. In other words, no matter how stupid, conflict & war is a permanent part of the equation. How do you think A.I. will be deployed in the conflict space, and what defences can we devise against it?

10. Where do you think AI can be deployed to help with problems and events affecting your own life, and those of your children.
Be creative when thinking about this!

11. There are strong signs that A.I. (and even much simpler automation) will destroy huge numbers of professional and working class jobs very soon. How do you expect to be affected by this? What will you do about it?



Extra Reading

A.I. - there are no limits to where this stuff is going: "'I was shocked it was so easy': meet the professor who says facial recognition can tell if you're gay" - an interview with the AI researcher and psychologist, Michal Kosinsky who also says "I don't believe in free will" @

Traffic control on a grand scale: this looks like a more benign use of AI: "China’s biggest ride-hailing platform Didi Chuxing wants to crunch its data to improve traffic conditions" @

"Jack Ma says humans will never be able to compete with AI" @

AI in economic planning - interesting comments by Ludwig Siegele : "What do you think about the use of advance data science techniques and machine learning algorithms to critically analyse modern economies and set interest rates based on such improved analysis methods?" @

"The crucial flaw of self-driving cars? They will always need human involvement - The introduction of new technology into everyday life will always take longer than you think" John Naughton @

"Global workforce will be decimated by fourth [industial] revolution, says Siemens boss" @

Python seems to be the language of choice for AI programming. In the last year it has had more Google searches than 'Kim Kardashian', which sounds hopeful. Python is being widely introduced in schools, at least in America: ", a charity, notes that 40% of American schools now offer such lessons, up from 10% in 2013. Around two-thirds of 10- to 12-year-olds have an account on’s website. Perhaps unnerved by a future filled with automated jobs, 90% of American parents want their children to study computer science". @

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond" Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum @

"Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things also cloud computing"

Wikipedia @
Essential first reading: "Artificial Intelligence", Wikipedia @

"The meaning of life in a world without work As technology renders jobs obsolete, what will keep us busy? - Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari examines ‘the useless class’ and a new quest for purpose" - The Guardian @

"The robot debate is over: the jobs are gone and they aren't coming back". Tim Dunlop, The Guardian @

"Who should die when a driverless car crashes? Q&A ponders the future" - The Guardian @

"World’s largest hedge fund to replace managers with artificial intelligence ". Wall Street Journal @

"You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot—and Sooner Than You Think" Mother Jones @

"How to ensure Australia thrives when the robots come".Peter Hartcher @   

"Are Russia’s leaders ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?". Anastasia Kalinina, World Economic Forum, 2016 @

Pedro Domingo, 2015 "The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World" - [book, ebook or MP3] - on Amazon @

Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) Good for Us? (c) Thor May 2018 return to Ddiscussion