Why Queen Elizabeth I Would be Against Artificial Intelligence - Understanding the apprehension & excitement around discussions about AI


In 1589, inventor William Lee wanted to patent an innovative knitting machine that would replace hand weavers and produce better quality fabrics. In this pursuit, he submitted a patent request to the Queen. Surprisingly, she refused him and stated: "Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring to them ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars." Nowadays, we have the knowledge that such technological advancements are indeed necessary for positive socio-economical evolution. Therefore, could it be the case that, in the future, people will see today’s apprehension of AI the way we view the Queen’s now?

Lately there has been a significant buzz about artificial intelligence. While the future seems exciting; the connotation behind some articles is that AI’s impact on society will be negative. However, there is no need to associate the image of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal 9000 with what we are actually likely to see AI accomplish in the future. While the worrying claims about AI are most probably not grounded in reality, it is sensible to consider the fact that AI will indeed change not only the labour market but also the way the world works, through different innovations and intelligent automation. Here’s why.


Numbers & Predictions

First of all, it’s important to understand the impact that AI is estimated to have: the research and advisory firm Forrester predicted that there will be a 300% increase in investment in AI this year. According to the White House, just short of 50% of jobs might become irrelevant as a result of technological advancement, and 83% of jobs that pay under $20 an hour will most likely be automated over the next few years. In an environment such as this, questions about the role of the human in society are bound to arise: if one’s job can be executed just as well (if not better) by a robot, what impact does that have on the individual’s life? The author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari discusses the possible rise of the useless class and explores the new sense of purpose that would arise as an adaptation to a possibly AI-rich world.

But if we were to change our vantage point, could AI possibly mean improvement and not a threat? If we consider the tasks that will most likely be undertaken by AI – those that are simple and routine – it becomes apparent that this might actually aid workers in focusing on tasks that are more complex and give them a chance to showcase their skills. Thus, AI could be synonymous with alleviating people of the tasks that take up most of their time and energy, yet generate the least amount of value.


Exciting Future Possibilities of AI

More than this, some of the advances that AI has brought about are quite mind-boggling; just recently AI has created sounds never heard by humans before. It has been predicted that due to these developments there will be a change of tides, and the Internet of Things will become the Internet of Eyes: “every device, every machine and every inch of our space is going to be powered by smart sensors,” says Fei-Fei Li (Director of the Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Lab and Chief Scientist AI/ML at Google Cloud).  “The only path to build intelligent machines is to enable them with powerful visual intelligence, just like what animals did in evolution.”

Debbie Williams of SPROUT Content acknowledges the fact that cognitive technology (such as Watson of IBM) might enable us to analyse data such as unstructured text, video, images and audio – thus, AI could deeply understand fine concepts such as personality or emotion. This has the potential of lessening the artificiality of marketing, and improving the personalisation of recommendations. Linking this to our previous blog post, this can benefit companies that are using chatbots to engage with their audiences – potentially in an even more meaningful way than before.

The future possibilities of AI are sometimes so far-reaching that even the most open-minded person could have issues with taking it all in – projects such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink are so forward-facing that they seem to have come out of a SciFi book. Just the possibility that we might, in the future, have a ‘Neural Lace’ around our brains that connects us to a computer and immediately registers information, is enough to make one shudder. Adam Westbrook of The Memo expressed a few very insightful questions, which could arise as a result of Neuralink project being successful:

If it’s possible to upload our thoughts to a remote server, would we be able to live on forever, once our bodies have died? Could we “live” the lives of other people simply by downloading their memories and experiencing them as our own? What will this do to our sense of self? And what happens when we merge our collective minds into one super-artificial-intelligence? Where will we end and software begin? Will we all eventually exist as one giant hive mind in the cloud?

All of these advancements and questions create an aperture through which we may be able to see the incredible possibilities the future can offer. There is no denying that the world may be quite radically changed by the rise of AI, there is a certain mix of apprehension and excitement when people are talking about it today. However, that is the exact formula that ultimately leads to great things.

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By Teodora Miscov

Following her passion for all things digital, Teodora moved to London with the goal of completing her BA in Digital Media Communications at the University of Westminster. Having just finished her formal education, she is now pursuing her career in the vibrant Soho as the Marketing Executive at Lab. Her interest for art and philosophy finds a release on her personal blog, which she has been running for six years. Catch up with Teodora on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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