The AI Doomsday Clock – Why Ethics Matter

The weaponization of AI has moved the hand of the doomsday clock one minute closer to twelve, and we should be terrified. We often see the direct implications of weaponization as AI killing humans or even AI killing AI. Political operatives use AI to create video likenesses that are kinesiology and biographically designed to bring down their political enemies. But the weaponization of artificial intelligence has more interesting ramifications than just the obvious. Most discussions focus on the law, its legality. Frankly, this is naively boring. Some even test the philosophical waters by sticking their sanctimonious toe into the temperate wetness of morality, only to quickly jerk it out after its cold oratorical reception. The more profound, more immersive argument lays beyond both of these realms. One needs to leave behind the world of laws, journeying past morals to slip into a new domain, one of ethics. When it comes to law, morals matter. But when it comes to morals, ethics is the deeper study.

Plato draws us into this new world through the allegorical cave, where the human heart is lit by the feelings cast of fire, where laws are the flickering shadows cast by moral perceptions and judgments objects, while ethics… well, it is the study of the objects themselves from the back of the cave, behind the flickering flames of the fire. For in the AI realm, there are emerging artificial objects that cast new virtual shadows. These objects are not the creation of humans; they form at the intersection of an abstract world of computers and reality’s physical world where humans roam. But what does all this pseudo-philosophy honestly mean for our society?

Just as the laws that bind humans around a common ethos are flawed, perfectly punishing us imperfectly, so will future laws that designed to regulate the behaviors of AI. Human laws are fundamentally flawed because we no longer choose to study the moral objects of perception and judgment. Like a child opening boxes on Christmas morning, we impatiently jump to legal conclusions without anchoring them to the ethical consequences of being human, adorning our societal cave walls with iconic legal symbols that capture our interpretation of the shadows. AI laws, the new virtual shadows, will also fail because of the same impetus human condition… lack of critical thinking around objectified cause and effect. We don’t strive to study the objects of AI, just it how it makes us feel as we watch its casted shadows.

The weaponization of artificial intelligence is likely to kill humankind, someday. Not because we directly enabled its ability to do so. No terminators. Not because we granted it autonomy of thought and action, teaching it to learn from mistakes. No Hal. AI will not kill because of these implicit acts of man. We will die at the hands of AI because of some unforeseen consequence of a terrible AI object whose shadow was seen and admired, but whose object was never understood. Never systematically binding our humanity through the important study of AI’s impact on causality, the AI objects that cast the iconic shadows. Will this be?

No, this apocalyptic future isn’t preordained. The minute hand of the AI doomsday clock can be moved back, maybe even stopped completely. To do so, we need to draw upon a modern day Plato; we need to deeply study the ethical issues through the mind of the AI Ethicists. We will have to future map their many implications through the eyes of an AI Futurist. Establishing meaningful causal governance through the empowered collective wisdom of the AI Ethics Committee, some of which will focus on sensitive issues of use. This will be painful, it will like come at a cost. But sometimes the cost of doing nothing is just too high. Sometimes, certainly in the case of ethical AI, the burden of deeply understanding its moral implications through ethical eyes is more than justified. Only if there were more of us at the back of the cave.

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

America faces a global strategic challenge in the artificially intelligent driven world. As a country, America is standing at the side of a heavily traveled global AI highway, tepidly stepping out into strategic traffic and then back onto the tactical breakdown lane of ineptitude. Massive AI achievements are zipping by from other countries with amazing speed. Pushing America further back onto the side of the road, keeping us from make our move. All the while, giving us a false sense of safety. This why Kai-Fu Lee’s book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, is so timely. He provides a detailed look at how China is poised to win one of the most important markets.


America is Roadkill on China’s Path to Artificial Intelligence Dominance

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“That’s a dead armadillo,” I said pointing with my finger as my arm hung out the car door window.  Back in the day, my dad would take our family on vacation drives along iconic Route 66. We drove for hours during the day, stopping at bizarre roadside attractions, and sleeping the night in one of those TeePee motels. Every summer it was the same drive. The same attractions. Same lodging. The only thing that changed was the kind of roadkill, lifeless flattened animal bodies, that my sister and I would try to identify as we motored along. As much as they were all different, they were all the same. Their tiny bodies were slower to move than the massive cars and trucks plowing along the highway. They never had a chance.

America faces a similar challenge in our desire to navigate across the competitive roadscapes leading towards an artificially intelligent driven world. As a country, America stands at the side of a heavily travelled global AI highway, tepidly stepping out into strategic traffic and then back onto the tactical breakdown lane. Back to a slow pace and a safer place. All the while, massive AI achievements are zipping by from other countries with amazing speed. Pushing us further back onto the side of the road. Keeping us from make our move. Giving us a false sense of safety. All the while keeping us from a lumbering move that would most likely have us end up like the dead armadillo of my childhood day.

jbareham_170802_1892_0002America is dangerously lagging other parts of the world when it comes to treating AI as a strategic asset. For example, China seeks to dominate the global AI industry. We do not. They are treating development of AI as an arms race, building massive government supported industries that drive toward their strategic endgame – own AI, around the world, and have the resources to support it. We have no stated strategy. To support their strategic goals, to win the inevitable zero sum competitive games with America, China has release a national AI development strategy. This set of capabilities, partners, and alliances that will guide their goals to develop a China-centric $23B AI industry by 2020 and a $59B industry by 2025. Local and state governments are also supporting this strategy, creating educational and delivery alliance partners. China’s 1.4 billion population is a data gold mine for building AI. For China, this is national strategic initiative. A Pax Americana of Asia AI. We don’t have one. They do. That’s an America problem. A strategic problem.

Lack of a national strategic program is important because AI is a unique strategic resource. It is not like oil, water, or food. Traditional strategic resources do not beget more of those resource. Having a reserve of oil does not in itself generate more oil. These resources are finite and consumed. AI is different. AI produces more AI. AI is an exothermic resource, generating more than it consumes. It produces more knowledge, more insights, more advantages for the user. Having a strategic AI lead means one can produce more AI in the future, faster than those that don’t have it or are just starting.

oodacover2-790x1024John Boyd, a United States Air Force Colonel, studies the tactical effects of strategically out thinking your enemy. He determined that when one operates at a faster tempo or rhythm than the adversary, you will win and they loose in a zero sum competitive game. AI is a catalyst for faster tempos and rhythms. But unlike other processes, like the OODA that Boyd studied, AI exponentially improves its results with each cycle, each evolution. This limits effective counter attacks, limits effective transformations that could equalize future competitive engagements. He who owns AI, owns the world.

America needs a National AI Strategy (NAiS). We need to treat AI as a strategic resource; just as we do with oil, uranium, and electricity. We need to have a clear endgame that results in us driving AI, in all places, and having the resources to sustain it. America needs to build bigger and badder AI capabilities than our enemies, whoever they are and wherever they exist. We need to create effective AI partnerships and strong dominating AI alliances. We need to gain the strength to dominate the AI roadscape. Sustain a faster AI tempo. Doing anything less will be catastrophic. Doing less will jeopardize our way of life. Doing less could have our children one day saying, “Look daddy, is that American leadership that is dead on the side of the AI superhighway?”