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2. Pandemic of ‘Today’s AI’

Published onJul 08, 2022
2. Pandemic of ‘Today’s AI’

So much of today’s tech is controlling what we see and distorting the world we share. Yet ‘Today’s AI’ could be shifted toward our organic, biological roots — for example, by designing analog interactional frameworks based on novelty and choice, transparency and conversation. We can create and collect design patterns and working prototypes, from across the worlds of art and media, technology and history, that can inspire designers, students, and entrepreneurs to bring about positive change in the tech we use every day.

Why “Today’s AI” as a phrase? Not all AI is negative—yet so much of the artificial intelligence inside of today’s tech is manipulating what we see and distorting the world we share. Fueled by massive increases in “big data” and compute power, the machine-learning algorithms behind “Today’s AI” are tirelessly fomenting polarization, spreading social bias, pushing irrelevant products, co-opting our attention, addicting us to harmful activities, and surveilling our lives. A single, unregulated, global social-media platform, implicated in that litany of harm, has 2.8 billion active users. The Internet and its ubiquitous digital devices touch over 4.5 billion people. Surely “Today’s AI” is a pandemic of technology at global scale.

Technology itself is not at fault. How we fashion it, the values we embed in it, and the motivations that promote it are at fault, serving the ends of companies that compromise the social fabric of our lives.

“Today’s AI” is not the only option we have to live with. We can shift technology toward our analog roots—our physical, organic, biological, and social selves. We can design and propagate a set of humane interactional frameworks as counter-examples to the dominant platforms of social media and sharing, search and recommendations. For a start.

We can deliberately decide what we wish to conserve to remain human—and then build technologies that serve our principles. By bringing forth replacements for the algorithms of “Today’s AI” we can begin to have a positive effect. Novelty and choice, transparency and conversation can become new core principles for our online lives.

We can start by thinking cybernetically—not in the constricted sense of robotics, AI, cyborgs, or cyberspace, but in its original meaning as a discipline for understanding systems that have purpose. The concepts of Cybernetics bring an ethical imperative to human action and offer a “bilingual sensibility” that can bridge the analog of our biology and the digital of our devices (see graphic at top). But it is only one place to start. 

Our plan is to design and integrate new classes of interactive systems with today’s AI and digital technologies. Our goal is to create and promote new design patterns and working prototypes that bring positive change.

Urgency of the need and scale of the challenge require that we convene 
#NewMacy Conversations in a Network of #NewMacy Meetings. (Read about the original Macy Meetings here.) We must bring together voices across all disciplines, geographies, and generations. Let us bring about a rich mesh of collaborations among individuals and organizations.

Contact: [email protected]

Further reading

Position Paper: “Responding to the Pandemic of ‘Today’s AI’

Introduction to #NewMacy Conversations — broader initiative

#NewMacy Conversations: Evolving Documentation — full history

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