Episode 5

What is the future of artificial intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence can be found in every aspect of our lives. From A-level grade predicting algorithms to Netflix recommendations, AI is set to change the choices we make and how our personal information will be used. In this episode, we explore the future of AI - its potential benefits and harms - with our three guests. Beth Singler told us about the different cultural consequences of AI, and how the way we think about the future of AI reflects more about society today than the future itself. John Zerilli shared his views on the consequences of AI for democratic decision-making, and Richard Watson urged us to conceive of the future of AI in terms of ‘scenario planning’, rather than predicting the future directly. We cover topics ranging from how to make AI ‘ethical’, how the media representation of AI can colour the public’s perception of what the real issues are, and the importance of an international AI regulatory system. 

This episode was produced by Nick Saffell, James Dolan and Naomi Clements-Brod. Annie Thwaite and Charlotte Zemmel provide crucial research and production support for Series 2.

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[0:00] - Introductions

[01:22] - guest research introductions

[01:55] - what is AI?

[02:46] - machine learning and AI as the same thing? 

[04:31] - Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)

[04:47] - AI in our everyday lives- it’s everywhere!

[06:07] - effect of different patterns on AI e.g. COVID-19 anomalies

[06:46] - we need human flexibility to respond to these changing patterns

[07:27] - what is a futurist in residence?

[08:37] - the only certainty with the future is that it is uncertain. There are lots of futures out there. Being a futurist is all about debating and scenario planning

[09:41] - should every organization have an AI and futurist officer?

[10:09]- how we think about the future as reflecting on what we think about the present

[10:54]- Alvin Toffler and 20th-century futurism

[11:55]- futurism and AI. AI dialogue needs to be about its impact on the future

[12:54]- running out of humans?

[13:33]- AI in care homes

[13:38]- Time for the first recap! 

[17:55]- the relationship between AI and religion, and the cultural impact of AI

[19:58]- cultural animation and AI receptivity- not a simple relationship

[20:35]- being ‘blessed’ and ‘cursed’ by the algorithm

[22:04]- democracy and AI. How are we to expect citizens to be informed enough to exercise their voting rights in the best way?

[23:28]- Cambridge Analytica and drastic changes in voting. How much does and should the public know?

[25:45]- what opportunities do people have to get informed about AI?

[27:30}- what do the people who are creating AI need to hear?

[27:40]- ‘open AI’ and the need for public access to AI algorithms

[28:59]- Digital trust and who gets to own data

[29:27]- AI and moral responsibility. This is where the religious aspects enter the AI debate.

[30:25]- the ‘deontological approach: building an AI ‘rulebook’

[31:25]- problem with ‘ethical AI’ is that we don’t really know what an ethical human is.

[32:27]- Time for recap number two! 

[37:00]- a post-pandemic world and changing human interactions

[38:35]- the ‘Hello Barbie’ robot. Is it socially acceptable for children to be raised by machines?

[39:00]- the hackability of home products

[40:25]- corporations who produce ‘smart’ products can be using data to change our choice architecture

[42:00]- the public understanding of algorithmic bias

[44:06]- media coverage of AI and the fear of apocalypse 

[45:01]- loss of free agency… or did we never have any?

[46:00]- to what extent is our skillset being degraded because of AI?

[46:25]- imagining a post-work future. Wall-e or Startrek?

[47:10]- the utopian/dystopian tension

[50:45]- science fiction and its reflective role in society

[52:35]- moving to solutions for combatting AI issues

[53:00]- the importance of regulation and antitrust laws

[55:00]- the tension between national and international AI codes of conduct

[58:05]- Thinking about the benefit of AI can teach us about what makes a good life

[58:20]- concluding summary

Guest Bios:

Beth Singler @BVLSingler is a social and digital anthropologist. She is currently a Junior Research Fellow in artificial intelligence at Homerton College, Cambridge. Her research explores the social, ethical, philosophical, and religious implications of advances in AI and robotics. She has produced a series of documentaries on AI, including “Pain in the Machine”, which received the AHRC Research in Film Award in 2017.

John Zerilli @JohnZerilli is a Research Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for Future of Intelligence. He is a philosopher with a particular interest in cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and the law. He has an upcoming book entitled “A Citizen’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence”, which is intended to inform the general public on AI. Particularly, he is interested in how well-informed the citizenry has to be in order to make democratic decisions. 

Richard Watson is the Futurist-In-Residence at the Entrepreneurship Centre at Judge Business School. His research is focused on technology and the future and how AI will impact businesses and organisations. He founded the website, “What’s Next” in order to help organisations think about the emerging risks and opportunities that AI brings. 

Is there any ‘further reading’ you can suggest to listeners?

Book suggestions: 

In Our Image by George Zarkadakis. 

Will AI Replace Us? by Shelly Fan 

AI by Margaret Bowden 

2011: Living in the Future (1972) by Geoffrey Hoyle 

The Usborne Book of the Future: A Trip to the Year 2000 and Beyond (1979) 

What Can't AI do? - https://toptrends.nowandnext.com/2019/10/19/what-cant-ai-do-3/

A ‘map' from 2017 (see top left tech line)  https://nowandnext.com/PDF/Mega%20Trends%20and%20Technologies%202017-2050%20(Web).png

Is there any ‘further watching’ you can suggest to listeners?

1929 Metropolis

1934, Master of the World

1956, Forbidden Planet

1966, Colossus: The Forbin Project

1968 2001 a Space Odyssey -  HAL 9000

1973, Westworld

1973, The Six Million Dollar Man

1982 – Bladerunner

1983, Wargames

1984, Terminator

1984, Electric Dreams

1985, D.A.R.Y.L.

1986, Short Circuit

1987 Robocop

1999, The Iron Giant

1991, T2

1995, Ghost in the Shell

1999, The Matrix – link to Nick Bostrom

1999, Bicentennial Man

2001, A.I. Artificial Intelligence

2002, S1MONE

2004, iRobot

2008, WALL-E

2009. Moon

2010, Inception

2012, Robot and Frank

212, Prometheus

2013, Her

2014, Transcendence

2014, Automata

2015, Ex Machina

2015, Chappie

2020, Superintelligence

About the Podcast

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Mind Over Chatter
Welcome to Mind Over Chatter, the Cambridge University Podcast! One series at a time, we break down complex issues into simple questions.

About your hosts

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Naomi Clements-Brod

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James Dolan