As humanity debates the threats and opportunities of advanced artificial intelligence, we are simultaneously enabling that technology through the increasing use of personalization that is understanding and anticipating our needs through sophisticated machine learning solutions.
In effect, while using personalization technologies in our everyday lives, we are contributing in a real way to the development of the intelligent systems we purport to fear.
Perhaps uncovering the currently inaccessible personalization systems is crucial for creating a sustainable relationship between humans and super–intelligent machines?
From Machines Learning About You…
Industry giants are currently racing to develop more intelligent and lucrative AI solutions. Google is extending the ways machine learning can be applied in search, and beyond. Facebook’s messenger assistant M is combining deep learning and human curators to achieve the next level in personalization.
With your iPhone you’re carrying Apple’s digital assistant Siri with you everywhere; Microsoft’s counterpart Cortana can live in your smartphone, too. IBM’s Watson has highlighted its diverse features, varying from computer vision and natural language processing to cooking skills and business analytics.
At the same time, your data and personalized experiences are used to develop and train the machine learning systems that are powering the Siris, Watsons, Ms and Cortanas. Be it a speech recognition solution or a recommendation algorithm, your actions and personal data affect how these sophisticated systems learn more about you and the world around you.
The less explicit fact is that your diverse interactions — your likes, photos, locations, tags, videos, comments, route selections, recommendations and ratings — feed learning systems that could someday transform into super–intelligent AIs with unpredictable consequences.
As of today, you can’t directly affect how your personal data is used in these systems.
In these times, when we’re starting to use serious resources to contemplate the creation of ethical frameworks for super–intelligent AIs-to-be, we also should focus on creating ethical terms for the use of personal data and the personalization technologies that are powering the development of such systems.
To make sure that you as an individual continue to have a meaningful agency in the emerging algorithmic reality, we need learning algorithms that are on your side and solutions that augment and extend your abilities. How could this happen?
…To Machines That Learn For You
Smart devices extend and augment your memory (no forgotten birthdays) and brain processing power (no calculating in your head anymore). And they augment your senses by letting you experience things beyond your immediate environment (think AR and VR).
The web itself gives you access to a huge amount of diverse information and collective knowledge. The next step would be that smart devices and systems enhance and expand your abilities even more. What is required for that to happen in a human-centric way?
Data Awareness And Algorithmic Accountability
Algorithmic systems and personal data are too often seen as something abstract, incomprehensible and uncontrollable. Concretely, how many really stopped using Facebook or Google after PRISM came out in the open? Or after we learned that we are exposed to continuous A/B testing that is used to develop even more powerful algorithms?
More and more people are getting interested in data ethics and algorithmic accountability. Academics are already analyzing the effects of current data policies and algorithmic systems. Educational organizations are starting to emphasize the importance of coding and digital literacy.
Initiatives such as VRM, Indie Web and MyData are raising awareness on alternative data ecosystems and data management practices. Big companies like Apple and various upcoming startups are bringing personal data issues to the mainstream discussion.
We need apps and data visualizations with great user experience.
Yet we still need new tools and techniques to become more data aware and to see how algorithms can be more beneficial for us as unique individuals. We need apps and data visualizations with great user experience to illuminate the possibilities of more human-centric personalization.
It’s time to create systems that evaluate algorithmic biases and keep them in check. More accessible algorithms and transparent data policies are created only through wider collaboration that brings together companies, developers, designers, users and scientists alike.
Personal Machine Learning Systems
Personalization technologies are already augmenting your decision making and future thinking by learning from you and recommending to you what to see and do next. However, not on your own terms. Rather than letting someone else and their motives and values dictate how the algorithms work and affect your life, it’s time to create solutions, such as algorithmic angels, that let you develop and customize your own algorithms and choose how they use your data.
When you’re in control, you can let your personal learning system access previously hidden data and surface intimate insights about your own behavior, thus increasing your self-awareness in an actionable way.
Personal learners could help you develop skills related to work or personal life, augmenting and expanding your abilities. For example, learning languages, writing or playing new games. Fitness or mediation apps powered by your personal algorithms would know you better than any personal trainer.
Google’s experiments with deep learning and image manipulation showed us how machine learning could be used to augment creative output. Systems capable of combining your data with different materials like images, text, sound and video could expand your abilities to see and utilize new and unexpected connections around you.
Industry giants are currently racing to develop more intelligent and lucrative AI solutions.
In effect, your personal algorithm can take a mind-expanding “trip” on your behalf, letting you see music or sense other dimensions beyond normal human abilities. By knowing you, personal algorithms can expose you to new diverse information, thus breaking your existing filter bubbles.
Additionally, people tinkering with their personal algorithms would create more “citizen algorithm experts,” like “citizen scientists,” coming up with new ideas, solutions and observations, stemming from real live situations and experiences.
However, personally adjustable algorithms for the general public are not happening overnight, even though Google recently open-sourced parts of its machine learning framework. But it’s possible to see how today’s personalization experiences can someday evolve into customizable algorithms that strengthen your agency and capacity to deal with other algorithmic systems.
The next step is that your personal algorithms become a more concrete part of you, continuously evolving with you by learning from your interactions both in digital and physical environments. Your algorithmic self combines your personal abilities and knowledge with machine learning systems that adapt to you and work for you. Be it your smartwatch, self-driving car or an intelligent home system, they can all be spirited by your algorithmic self.
Your algorithmic self also can connect with other algorithmic selves, thus empowering you with the accumulating collective knowledge and intelligence. To expand your existing skills and faculties, your algorithmic self also starts to learn and act on its own, filtering information, making online transactions and comparing best options on your behalf. It makes you more resourceful, and even a better person, when you can concentrate on things that really require your human presence and attention.
Partly algorithmic humans are not bound by existing human capabilities; new skills and abilities emerge when human intelligence is extended with algorithmic selves. For example, your algorithmic self can multiply to execute different actions simultaneously. Algorithmic selves could also create simple simulations by playing out different scenarios involving your real-life choices and their consequences, helping you to make better decisions in the future.
Machines are still far from human intelligence.
Algorithmic selves — tuned by your data and personal learners — also could be the key when creating invasive human-computer interfaces that connect digital systems directly to your brain, expanding human brain concretely beyond the “wetware.”
But to ensure that your algorithmic self works for your benefit, could you trust someone building that for you without you participating in the process?
Machine learning expert Pedro Domingos says in his new book “The Master Algorithm” that “[m]achine learning will not single-handedly determine the future… it’s what we decide to do with it that counts.”
Machines are still far from human intelligence. No one knows exactly when super–intelligent AIs will become concrete reality. But developing personal machine learning systems could enable us to interact with any algorithmic entities, be it an obtrusive recommendation algorithm or a super–intelligent AI.
In general, being more transparent on how learning algorithms work and use our data could be crucial for creating ethical and sustainable artificial intelligence. And potentially, maybe we wouldn’t need to fear being overpowered by our own creations.