Christina/ May 24, 2018/ The daily grind, Categories

A reflexion on the debate on “artificial intelligence”: boon or bane?

The silent death of common sense seems to no longer a myth – thanks to artificial intelligence. It is hard to say though, when exactly the major offensive on the brains started. For the sake of convenience I revert to my awaken use of new technology. By that I refer to the personal computer, later the internet, followed by the smartphone and henceforth may my personal robot – my friend and aide made of plastic and electronics?

Me, I like technical progress if the use of it facilitates my life one way or the other. At the same I do not want to become a slave on it. And that means to me that I do not want to turn off my gray matter completely and blind trust the technology-driven media.
Well you can either call me backward or antiquated because I am still using a map of trails made of paper (exactly, the white sheets that you can find under some trees in the forest if people had to pee) and I aim to find the way to the next stamp spot by myself following my own sense of direction. That might sound absurd to some of you, however for me it is an important training in order to leave all my competences over to machines.

What really annoys me, for example, are those navigations devices most people use in their cars. The chatter of “Uschi” (that is how I call the female voice) or “Herbert” (my nickname for the male voice) really gets on my nerves after some time and ruins any conversation between driver and front passenger because Uschi and/or Herbert talk a blue streak. Disregarding that neither Uschi nor Herbert always have the best or shortest route to a destination they both have nice bloomers up their sleeves as the following example displays: recently I was together with a friend on the way to Ilfeld in the Harz mountains. On the home straight Uschi looses her cool and wants us to leave the paved road by all means and continue on a dirt road (I did not understand why). At that time Uschi was so enlivened by her directions that she could not stop telling us to go left at any junction: “please take the next side road on the left and continue on the dirt road”, she continued to say again and again and again. After Uschi had realized that we did not care about her directions she kept on telling us to make a legal U-turn and then take (that bloody) the next right to the dirt road.

Well, how can I turn off my grey matter for a stupid machine like this?

But wait a minute – it gets even better. Upon another hiking trip with another friend a conversation on artificial intelligence and robots unfolds. Two days before I heard of a conference where the imperialistic tech giants met and the Google CEO proudly told the story of a machine that has a human voice so that it cannot be told apart from a real human being. The proof for it, he claimed, was a call from that machine to a restaurant in order to book a table – and it worked.

Strong meat, I say. My friend however ward off my skepticism by pointing out how awesome it would be to walk with a robot, that would never be tired, that would never oppose to me and could answer any question about the region and the trip. Moreover the robot could have a conversation with me in any language I like or could even teach me any language that I like. Aha, sounds tempting in the first place. No objection – wonderful. No bossiness – fine. No pick- up attempts – how relaxing. But at the same time: how boring, because the whole thing is absolutely predictable and thus absolutely dull.

What is the consequence of it? Besides my brain I might also run the risk of losing my social competences because I do not need them anymore? Next to the assumption that there are not only positive operation purposes for such machines (keyword: army of robots) and I do not like the conception of talking to a machine instead of a human being on the phone either, it makes me wonder what interpersonal contacts will be like in the future? Will it set the standard up another notch when it comes to rules of behavior between people so that sentences like this between lovers will be the rule: “I will leave you for robot Fred if you make me angry”? Phew, bad news for all the guys who are already afraid of buying a dog because mistress might rather take the dog to bed than the master? Well, the dog can wag with its tail whereas the master can only rattle with its sabre.

Well, all jokes aside. Neither looking on the dark side of things nor condemning technology I still prefer being confronted with the human factor than with robot-like perfection. Taking also the risk into account that from a neurologic point of view the effect of flirtation is the same as of brain damage, as some scientists claim.

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