“Why can’t we accept a future in which machines will augment our hearts and souls?”

Machine intelligence is well on its way to becoming a utility comparable to water, electricity and gas: something we can tap into at will and which helps us in our daily activity. In this case, we use data, lots of data, to fuel new insights and sparkle new innovations the same way we use gas and electricity to heat our rooms and power our appliances. According to Dell Technologies Forum keynote speaker Nell Watson it is very important to teach machines human ethics. This is why: 

Machine intelligence may well be the driving force for the next industrial revolution and lead us to the knowledge industry. It will be a powerful force, which inspires most of us and, quite frankly, scares us as well. 

The main obstacle on the road to this new revolution is clearly the current lack of trust. how can we trust the machines to never make a mistake? how can we avoid abuse of this powerful tool which can become a dangerous weapon in the hands of the wrong people? How can we rest assured that machines will never come to the conclusion that eliminating people is the logical thing to do?

One of the main technologies available today is blockchain, the ‘triple entry ledger system’ that is even more reliable than the current standard of accounting, and which enables an unprecedented transparency. This guaranteed insight into the reasonings and the data that have led to a specific insight, can be crucial in building a level of trust that allows us to fully yap into the potential of machine intelligence in the near future.

Machine ethics change the game

In the long run, another concept may become even more critical in our acceptance of machine intelligence in our daily lives: the emerging field of machine ethics. Using machine ethics, you can add a layer of morality to machine intelligence. you can make ethical decisions computable based on countless previous examples of what is considered as ethical behavior. And you can thus integrate the fuzzy concept of ‘humanity’ into our algorithms, respecting differences between people on the one hand and upholding general values on the other.

Sounds more like fiction than scientifically justified reasoning? And yet we are in the middle of investigating precisely that. More specifically, one of the keynote speakers at Dell Technologies Forum Brussels – Nell Watson, Senior Advisor at The future Society of Harvard – has co-founded the organization OpenEth to create an ‘ethical explanation engine’ that aims to crowdsource ethical heuristics for autonomous systems by creating a knowledge database of past ethical cases.

Practically speaking, this organization aims to teach machines step by step what is ethical behavior. Just like we teach our kids general ethical truths “if you throw something on the floor, you pick it up again” or “during mass in a church we talk as quietly as possible”, we can also teach our machines what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ advice.

In the end, you would end up with the ideal ‘digital butler’ who knows perfectly what you expect from them, what is appropriate behavior, and who can act accordingly. But in order for us to create this butler we not only need to provide the best possible algorithms but als countless datasets illustrating ethical dilemmas and what is the morally right solution.

Hundreds of smiles per hour

We still have a long way to go before we actually get there. But the future might be nearer than you expect. If you consider how fast we have evolved in picture and video recognition – from 15% to 98% accuracy in just a few years – the evolution of machine ethics might move forward a lot faster than we can imagine today as well.     

And Nell Watson is already taking it one step further. She believes that in the end, machines will be able to show us what is the most moral decision, and be better at it than humans are. To put it differently: when the first industrial revolutions were about augmenting our muscles and (currently) our minds, why can’t we envision a future in which machines will augment our hearts and souls? When they will find our soulmate or best friend even before we have met them? Where they help us see all sides of a moral dilemma and prove us wrong with our first intuitive reaction?

Machines already help us move at a a speed of hundreds of miles per hour, why couldn’t they help us reach hundreds of smiles per hour? 

These and other fascinating insights will be offered by Nell Watson during her keynote on Dell Technologies Forum on 29 november 2018 in Brussels. Make sure you don’t miss this fascinating keynote: register now! It’s free!


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