Artificial Intelligence and Schrödinger’s cat

I doubt that there has ever been a time in human history when technologies had really entered the public discourse at the scale that we see today, and that brings forth a very interesting dynamics worth musing over as we are getting really keen on using it as a game-changer that will change the very nature of human existence.

Couple of days back, I had the pleasure of interacting with a set of politicians over the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and I am happy to report that they knew what AI is, but also unhappy to report that their interest in knowing more about AI was mainly to see if it can help them win elections.

I must admit that these new-fangled technologies may or may not be working, but they have acquired the brand equity similar to that of a magic wand.

Most people, more so when are over fifty like the set of politicians I met, think that it is possible to find wizkids who can perform miracles using computers.

When I was explained the idea of applying machines to identify patterns from the data, they were quick to grasp the concept, and they were savvy enough to work out that their advantage was in finding out the pattern followed by voters.

While I really admired how quick even a partially literate politician can be in seeing how such a high-end technology can work for him, this discussion also made me see a cat, or rather a dark black Schrödinger’s cat, that most people going gaga over the rising power of AI are unable to see.

If we look at the idea of intelligence a bit more closely, there is a twist in the tail when we move from “knowing”, the front of pattern-seeking to its working end of “doing”, i.e. applying of the patterns identified.

While we already have our own native human intelligence that we have been meaningfully applying to both knowing and doing, with the arrival of AI, we are now about to see an exponential growth in the pattern-seeing, and hence it is natural for us to imagine that it will enable us to really go far.

Like my political friends imagined that once they know the voter decision-making pattern, they can work on that handle and make the system yield the results that they want, most developers of AI are also presuming that AI will equip humanity to be in great control over natural complex systems.

If we take some success stories from AI domain, we feel that we are now getting closer in diagnosing various diseases with far greater accuracy using AI because the machine is able to “see” deeper relationships that humans haven’t been able to. It does make sense because machines can bring in the far superior data processing capabilities and have handles to look at data that the human brain may not have, but what really interests me is the aftermath of application of this pattern-awareness and this is where our mean universe is likely to unleash Her favorite pet, Schrödinger’s cat.

We can really look deep into the data and locate hidden patterns, but if we apply that knowledge, in all likelihood, such an act will alter the very patterns that we have derived.

For example, if my political friends will use the patterns found in voter behaviour, that interference itself will alter voter behaviour patterns in long run. Similarly, if AI-deduced diagnostic tools are used, they will soon change the underlying patterns as biology will evolve and change.

If we look at the universe that we live in, it is clearly created by a mean Designer with obsession with keeping control over things. She may get kind enough at some stage and allow us to know parts of Her design, but if we will try to use it for controlling our fate, She may just give the kaleidoscope that we call universe just one more twist!

So, AI can be yet another feather in our quest to unveil the inner workings of Her design, it will have to remain a tool that we can use to get wiser about her ways and accept our fate to live harmoniously with Her, but if we start thinking that it is a game-changer, it will be just one more addition to the long list of delusions we have suffered as a species and have come perilously close to self-destruction because of them.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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