How Alive is Thought, Invisible, Yet Without Thought There is No Sight

Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

The best place to catch a FIFA match is at the pub. Of course the match always goes better with a brew. But it’s the crew that makes the match come alive. Being outdoors in an open environment or beer garden is the best. Excitement fills the air leading up to a cruyff turn right before halftime! Well match times are never ideal for us Americans. It is still early afternoon, so better catch up on email during halftime. There is already a buzz going on your social media as well, what a game so far! For the single among us, it’s a good time to check in with our dating app as the second rounds are being served. 

And almost immediately after the kickoff into the second half, the broadcast pops up an AWS in-depth insight predicting that the next point will be scored within 15 minutes!

Such an immersive experience as it is that it does not even dawn on us how much computing power has been harnessed to pop up that one little prediction. Networks of servers in the cloud running state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms are seamlessly integrated with modern live broadcast technology. Completely invisible, it’s all just part of an exciting soccer match this afternoon. And all those posts that lit up our phone at halftime? More AI is powering social media curation to deliver relevance in real time, with back-end technology that is completely invisible. 

Formula 1 also uses AWS in-depth insights, similar to Germany’s premier football league Bundesliga. Ross Brawn, the head of the FIA, delivered a fascinating talk describing the technology in depth:

AWS re:Invent 2018: Ross Brawn

And how about that dating app? It used to be such a manual process, even when using an app on our phones we had to sift through one-by-one swiping left and right. It didn’t stop there; once we found a person of interest, thinking of a cheesy pickup line that isn’t cheesy wasn’t always easy. Well now there is AI for that too. An AI bot seamlessly integrated with your dating app messages your potential mates for you. Of course it always knows just what to say. And for your potential boo on the other side, this technology is also completely invisible, they have absolutely no idea it’s a bot.

This is all completely opposite of how AI interactions and experiences were initially conceived. The once futuristic Clippy from Microsoft office was technology in your face, whether you liked it or not. This had the unanticipated consequence of slowing adoption due to a clunky and even sometimes annoying user experience. These days Microsoft is also following the invisible AI trend, invisible AI is effective AI that consumers adopt without even realizing it. 

Thinking machines are all around and yet nowhere to be seen. This is an exaggeration of course, AI has not reached a general intelligence level yet. And so machines may not think in the way that we think, but they have been making millions of decisions on a daily basis for years. Decisions like what posts we see in our social media feeds. And now these machines are also actively making predictions about some of our daily affairs, such as which competitor will most likely score the next point in our sporting events, or which potential match we are most likely to swipe right. 

This seems potentially dangerous in some ways. But the benefits are also potentially enormous. And what creates the potential for danger here? When we know that we are interacting with machines, we naturally take simple precautions of use. For example, when using AI voice to text features on our phones, we often quick scan double check for any funny stuff the bot might have made a mistake. On the receiving end it’s commonplace to realize that a nonsensical or even offensive message was probably results of a technical glitch, and not something intentionally malicious. 

And we here at MX-Fusion are familiar with the shortcomings of AI first-hand. Automation we use for selecting relevant photos to fuse with songs playing in real time works well most of the time, and often offers pleasant surprises of beautiful images nicely woven in with the music at just the right time.  But it is far from perfect, sometimes the selected photo is baffling, and does not fit with the music at all. The artificial intelligence technology we use to recommend playlists from your favorite photo is even more advanced, and also often makes deeply engaging recommendations. But again, more advanced means more fragile; we like to say that “sometimes AI does funny stuff”.

At the end of the day, most risks come from the unknown. Simply being aware of some of the amazing AI that we regular consumers are already using on a daily basis removes the danger. And getting to know what  AI can do for us these days is empowering for us both at work and play. 

Now let’s enjoy a Fusion for Winter Gloves | Invisible:

Photo by Sabina Tone on Unsplash

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