I will continue from my last blog about the inspiring deaf-blind graduate from Harvard Law – Haben Girma. Another inspiring female at the conference was Timnit Gebru. She is a computer scientist who works in the space of algorithmic bias and data mining. Google hired her to research Ethical AI and allegedly fired her because she was too good at her job. She published a paper in which she highlighted how Artificial Intelligence that Google’s search uses is biased.
Google search and other language models (or programs or code) have to be trained. And to train a model that 4 billion people in the world use all the time, you need vast amounts of data. And the data that you find today is biased. And training artificial intelligence on the existing bias is dangerous because it will only increase exponentially, and even worse – it can self-replicate.
This looks like a plot from a sci-fi model where machines take over, right? Given my fascination with the end of the world – this got me riled up. What are we doing to the world! Haven’t we damaged it enough that now we are training Articifical Intelligence to bring our demise sooner?
Let’s switch context for a bit. I am reading Murdoch Mysteries, set in the early 1800s by Maureen Jennings. More than the murder, it is the setting that is fascinating. The world at that time was very different from ours – cabs referred to horse carriages. There was horse dung and pee all over the streets, which was covered with hay every morning. There were no toilets – people would use a pail and empty it in the outhouse. There was no electricity, and people used coal in the fireplace. There was no contraception – women got pregnant, and there was an abundance of sexual diseases. There was no cure for conditions like Tuberculosis, a burst appendix. In short surviving daily life, itself was a feat.
Why is this important? Because imagine when the concept of gasoline-driven cars had come up – I am sure somebody like Timnet Gebru would have talked about the pollution. But, she would have been shot down by the Gasoline and car consortium. Similarly, anytime we had a new invention or discovery like Coal, Wooden frames for houses – somebody would have warned society about the danger or the harmful effects. And it probably fell on deaf ears, and society, as we know, moved on. Greta Thunberg is doing that right now as we speak.
So, this got me thinking. What we are experiencing with AI is no different from the invention of cars. AI is the backbone of big corporate players like Google, Facebook and it will take a lot more than one woman to take action. Now, am I saying that we should have lived in the squalor of the early 1800s, and any new scientific discovery is terrible?
No, not at all. What I am pointing out is the history is repeating itself as it always has. It’s like the storyline remains the same, but the characters and the themes keep changing. And isn’t it time we changed history – rewrote it? That means each of us has to do something other than what we have been doing for ages.
Each one of us needs to wake up and truly understand ourselves. And when we do that, we will have a more profound but accurate knowledge of truth and false. From that, we can create a better world – but unless change happens at this fundamental level, history will keep repeating itself until there is nothing left. For that, we need to stop identifying with our thoughts.
How will you become aware of who you truly are?