Invoking the Human Perspective in Tech

Carl Sagan is famous for inspiring in the public conscious, an idea of the “cosmic perspective”. In the face of a vast and for all intents and purposes infinite ocean of space, we find our place by feeling equally as small as the people sitting next to us. Carl deftly defined the true in-group as all humans of earth, an in-group exclusively responsible for everything we’ve built as a collective civilization. We all loved him for it.

Robert Sapolsky, Professor of biology, neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford recently gave an eye-opening Ted talk (link) highlighting the biological and environmental factors that lead up to a person’s decision to perform violence. He takes care in zooming out from the moment the action is performed, highlighting environmental and biological nuances of the context within that decisive moment. The talk is fascinating and provides a human context in decision making.

Let’s juxtapose acts of violence with the ongoing development of technology, the nuances of decision making highlighted by Sapolsky holds a critical and human context. A central thesis of my upcoming book (Link)is that no matter how you slice it, humans are the X-factor in the assumption of the risks and opportunities inherent to solving any problem with the use of technology — Artificial Intelligence chief among them. More often than not, assumption of risk falls to the out group not actively solving the problem, far removed from the development of these veritable wonders. This idea is part and parcel to the widely discussed diversity problem in silicon valley. The pursuit of general AI and where it inevitably lands in the history books is informed by the limitations and scale of the defined problem. Whoever defines the problem, defines the scope of the solution — bias is most assuredly coming along for the ride. Unless we actively avoid the pitfalls, the problem of developing inclusive AI is a global challenge and no country is spared risk.

After all, isn’t it Team Earth versus the cosmos? Whether or not AI lands on the side of Team Earth will be a direct output of our collective effort.

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