Fraiday #2: Race against the Machines

Fraiday is the monthly meet-up for professionals who are AI-curious. We have a simple format, involving beers, lively debate around a theme and a group picture.

Last January our theme was “Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity”. We shared a lot of funny anecdotes about how algoritmes are often considered silver bullets and that -although we’ve seen major progress in the last 5 years- real A.I. is still far, far away.

For the February-edition the theme was “Race against the Machines”. All attendees were divided into groups to discuss the aspects of what it is to be human in a world that is rapidly becoming more and more machine driven. What are things that a machine will never replace? And what kind of tasks should (or could only) be done by algorithms?

Musk vs Page
The teams were then given the ultimate assignment: they should argue why AI will eventually save us (Team Page, named after Larry Page who has been quoted saying that AI will give us better lives and more free time) or will destroy us (Team Musk, named after Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking who warn about the downside of given power to machines).

Our lovely assistant Alexa flipped a coin and started the timer for the first round:

  • Team Musk warned us that AI will create an automated form of humans, this AI will learn from the humans, humans are imperfect so this makes the imperfections larger. Moreover, we cannot control AI, because we can’t understand it, we can’t go back if something goes wrong. Another point was that AI carries no responsibility, they can’t go to jail for example. AI becomes anti human and the bad comes before the good, can we really survive AI?
  • In their response, Team Page promises us that AI will bring us a modern paradise. We have to see it as the dog principle, we had dogs as hunters, but now they are social animals. There will be a good system, like health for every person on the globe, global stability, no problems in financials systems, no funny transactions and eliminate abundance. Paradise!

Some quotes from the second round:

  • In the second round of the debate Team Musk came back with counter arguments as: AI is a black box, we can’t learn from AI, we don’t understand it, the software runs on its own. They also mentioned that they didn’t want to be walking on a lease like a dog of AI. You always have to make mistakes to learn, this is dangerous. Last one-liner: Stay on top of the food chain.
  • Team Page responds and says AI reprograms itself and humans are going to learn from AI. To exist together in this beautiful world, to be a better human. Also there are laws for AI. We are in a bad place right now, so we can only go up! Last one-liner: AI is evolution into enlightenment.

And the winner is
In the end the jury had a really hard time to decide on who the winners were. In their wisdom they concluded that the debate itself was the grand prize. As we (technologists) are often accused of techno-optimism it can be very insightful to put ourselves in the shoes of the non-believers. In the end, we have to work it out together.

See you next month?

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