Letter from the Editorial and Creative Director: Make a Choice

Most people probably aren’t aware of the myriad ways in which artificial intelligence is already shaping the human condition. The music you listen to, the movies you watch, the new restaurants you try, the news you read, the route you take to work is all being parsed and served to you using varying degrees of AI. In most cases we’re happy to have what can be prescient technology improve our lives through better user experience, freeing up time and mental space for the things we actually enjoy. I know for a fact I’d have no idea how to find new bands I might like if it wasn’t for AI serving up suggestions on iTunes, and I welcome a shorter commute anytime.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A bit of searching will reveal many articles and papers from top universities and think tanks exploring the limits of where AI might take us. AI will quickly develop to be able to not just replace perfunctory tasks, but will make the most revered and sophisticated societal roles… perfunctory. Imagine a doctor that has the aggregate of all medical knowledge and builds on it every moment. A lawyer versed in all case law. Autonomous vehicles (planes, trains, automobiles, boats, etc…) all linked together, in constant communication.

Sounds great, right? I, for one, welcome the electric fully-autonomous car that can whisk me to work while I learn Italian or waste my life away on Instagram all in the comfort of a cocoon virtually without any risk whatsoever. Sure, I’ll fire up a sports car on the weekend and go for a blast, revelling in the joy of piloting a car on a twisting road or ripping through the countryside, but I’ll happily be done with the drudgery of commuting. And where my heart or that of my family is concerned, I welcome the idea of a longer and healthier life. And do I really care whether my taxes are done by a person rather than a super savvy algorithm? I mean, there’s a good chance 16 million lines of code has a better personality than your accountant anyway.

At some point, however, I think we will need to choose. At first, we will choose better medicine, better advice, more efficient and safer transportation, but at what cost? I’m not interested in fear mongering the rise of the machines, just wondering aloud: what is left of humanity when there’s nothing left to do? In any conversation about AI, it starts with the menial and repetitive roles being replaced and many will no doubt immediately think that art, whether it be music, painting, photography, poetry, will never be the domain of AI. But they would be wrong. At MIT AI has already created its own art. AI uses its own language to barter advertising networks such as Google and Facebook, a language programmers can’t understand. Ok, a bit of fear mongering then.

Our advancement from animals to rational beings creating ordered society has always been linked to technological advancement. We have the innate ability to create technological solutions that work harder and smarter than we can. But, I wonder, will we be smart enough?

– Michael La Fave
Editorial and Creative Director