A while back I was looking into AI a little more heavily after finding some interesting use cases. Mainly two with Crisis Text Line and Bark. At some point I ran across Hannah Fry and her book “Hello World”. One of her arguments in this book speaks to algorithms and is a good understanding of ethics surrounding the creation of technologies.
Data can be destructive
The idea that data can be harmful if not interpreted correctly should be obvious, but the next time you think it is I’d encourage you to listen to CNN and Fox in the same 1 hour period. Chances are you’ll hear the same story with the same facts and two entirely different spins. This is also a reality of Algorithms and the idea that this isn’t both harmful and helpful would be naive. Take Facebook’s newsfeed as a good example of how this can be both helpful and harmful.
Technology is Transformative
Do we need some algorithm openness and review process? I don’t think it would hurt. If nothing else, simply for understanding the implications of the algorithms we are accessing and the data they produce. At that point we can decide which algorithms we want to allow to impact us based on the values, both good and bad, that are built in to those tools by their creators. At least we can approach them with some philosophical understanding of how the tools are transforming us as we use them.
Technology as Art
The WordPress community has a phrase that rings true “Code is Poetry”. Given this, Technology is an art form, and I would argue that any technology created within the past 20 years is probably the art we utilize the most. It’s someone’s creation and it’s serving to change the world around us.
If technology is art, let’s at least make it good.
While these are true things, I will say I am excited about the potentials that AI tools are beginning to provide. Especially when it’s good art. Robert Henri stated on page 117 of Art in Community that “Art in the community has a subtle, unconscious, refining influence. It practically means that the presence of good art will unconsciously refine a community and that poor art will do it incalculable harm.”
As I mentioned earlier, Crisis Text Line and Bark are both using AI in some capacity to give significant help to others in moments of extreme crisis. These are great examples of incredible art. Honestly, the idea of a review committee that would help begin to filter out worse art like the youtube or facebook algorithms in trade for better art like that of the two listed above would serve to improve our communities and the general world around us given the reach of some of the more negative effect producing algorithms. Things like this, ideas like this, for an ever greater future as data science improves and the world around us is refined by the use of better algorithms. This gives me hope.