It makes no sense for a machine to think, but then is there any sense in animals thinking, or people? We have dreamed of thinking machines in every sci-fi novel, and while entrepreneurs think of a machine to spare the labour of thousands, the public thinks of HAL and SkyNet.
The field is inexplicable to most of us, entirely reliant on the inconceivable speeds of modern computers, but also reliant on the craft of the programmer. Even getting an arrow to bounce around a square takes a large number of options and alternatives, arranged carefully in the right order, because a computer cannot think to reason about what is expected in various circumstances- it has to be told every step. At least, that has been the usual understanding of computers. The idea behind artificial intelligence is to produce a fuzzy logic, in the right place. However it is done, it is being done and it is not a future possibility – it used now.
From a political view the issue that has been discussed is regulation, and it has been said that Britain can be a leader in that filed. The idea of heavy-footed government imposing regulations on a field it does not understand, written by civil servants barely out of the typewriter age, trying to constrain a technology to limits it has already far exceeded, should fill entrepreneurs with dread, or would do were it not simply possible to flit abroad Britain can indeed lead, by not regulating. Things like fixing criminal responsibility on an individual if a machine kills or steals can be looked at, but Luddism has no place in the counsels of the state.
The imminent issue though it how artificial intelligence systems will skew the distribution of information. Artificial intelligence systems now read across the internet to gain information and ‘insight’ into how to respond: but most of the internet is dangerous nonsense. For conservatives, this is a major problem, because political ideas will be redoubled by systems which select what we see. As these are continually skewed by online radicals and promoters of ludicrous theories like socialists and flat-earthers then the information matrix goes with them.
A simple example is the clickbait that appears whenever the internet is opened, seeking shock headlines just to grab the viewer, with no moral obligation. The opinion shift against Brexit has been driven by this sort of headline (and of course by the major recession caused by lockdown, and by failure to embrace Brexit opportunities, but those are for other articles).
I would feel better if there were a way to flood the internet with the learning of Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke and Roger Scruton. Without it, only a Hobbesian ‘Madnesse’ can dominate the online world, and the imaginations of voters.
This then should be a conservative goal: teach the internet common sense and reality.
- Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab
- Organizational Leadership for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Peter A.C. Smith, John Pourdehnad
- Powerful Patients, Paperless Systems by Alan Mak (Centre for Policy Studies)