September 25, 2017

Curious Season 6: The People Vs Artificial Intelligence

The brave new age of artificial intelligence is now well and truly upon us, and while brands scramble to leverage its myriad potential, regulators are scrambling to legislate its malicious potency. Of course, history has taught us that the advent of any new technology can be a double-edged sword, with the American academic Dr. Melvin Kranzberg famously musing that “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral”. This pithy insight (now known as Kranzberg’s First Law of Technology) illustrates how the exact same technology has the potential to produce quite divergent results, depending on the context of its application.  With this in mind, we’ve pulled together a brief overview of both the case for the prosecution and the case for the defence of Artificial Intelligence (AI).



Image Credit: Alexander Leydenfrost / Popular Mechanics


The Case for the Prosecution

  1. Privacy Concerns – A recent study conducted by Stanford University has demonstrated that AI can now accurately assess whether people are gay or straight based solely on photos of their face. Such an application raises alarming ethical questions around how this type of software could potentially be deployed to violate people’s privacy and screen them for sexual orientation.
  2. The Small Matter of World Peace – Signatories of the ‘Future of Life Institute’ (a club which includes industry luminaries such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk amongst others) have penned an open letter to the United Nations imploring them to ban the use and development of autonomous weapons. The evolving military applications of AI means that the cost threshold of going into battle has never been lower. The ease with which war can now be waged has ominous implications for the future of civilisation.
  3. Job Design – The proliferation of AI technologies has been touted in some quarters as the next industrial revolution, with some commentators highlighting how roles in the legal and financial sectors will be particularly suspect to disruption and obsolescence. However, while IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty concedes that  AI will undoubtedly affect how current jobs are performed, she argues that only a small percentage of tasks will actually be completely replaced – a prediction that brings us neatly on to the case for the defence of AI.


The Case for the Defence

  1. Transcending Human Limitations – AI offers humanity the means to transcend the shackles of our own limited cognitive processing power, a development which has many positive implications for the improvement of sectors such as healthcare. For example, while a doctor might only have time to read just a few medical research papers every month, IBM’s Watson AI can read a half million in about 15 seconds.
  2. Quality of Life – From driverless cars to personal fashion stylists, AI will irrevocably change how we choose to live our lives in the coming years. The development of a technology such as driverless cars has the potential to completely redefine our existing urban geographies, and as a result, our quality of life. It’s likely that more people will opt to live in previously inaccessible rural areas once their options for commuting are significantly improved. The time we previously spent driving could then ultimately be tapped for more productive/social tasks.
  3. Enhanced Storytelling – AI provides a new medium in which brands can both improve their commercial performance (data analysis) and also their storytelling capabilities (extended reach). Burger King has already been making headlines in this space with their clever cross-channel ‘hijacking’ of Google Home’s AI. The opportunities for further pioneering are rich and varied.



Image Credit 


While the jury is still out as to the final reckoning of Artificial Intelligence,  there is no doubt that it promises to be one of the defining features of our age. If you’d like to learn more on the subject,  please join us on Thursday morning (28th Sept) when VCCP’s own intelligence duo Adrian Gans (Innovation Director) and Jonny Goodall (Interactive Creative Director) will be the speakers kicking off our brand new Curious Season –  ‘Rise of the Machines’.

Until then, stay curious!

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Team Curious

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