MoMA R&D

Salon 24 AI - Artificial Imperfection

In a time when society is gearing itself up for the upcoming artificial intelligent quickening, much has been written about singularity, robots as job-stealing enemies and the trade-off between safety and autonomy. By positioning themselves in a distant science-fiction future, these and similar conversations fail to consider that AI is already proliferating – through criminal justice, healthcare, education, access to credit and hiring – and its impact has affected diverse communities in radically different manners. In 2010, Stephen Hawking famously claimed that “Without imperfection, you or I would not exist”. Inspired by the genius of such a visionary mind and as a tribute to his recent death, in this salon we will investigate the encroachment of AI into our daily lives through the lens of imperfection. Imperfection, as the (alleged?) trait that distinguishes human from artificial intelligence; imperfection, as the uncertainty of messy and missing data and of predicting what might happen next, which are the fields where humans still perform better than computers; and, finally, imperfection, as the alarming artificial stupidity that most superintelligent machines display today.

Some of the questions we strived to answer: If the AI revolution is already happening, how will we as humans interact with robots when they become a more visible part of our everyday lives? And how will they interact with us? As AI grows up and starts to think, not just to learn, how human-like do we want their intelligence to be? And if we need robots to have morals, how can they learn ethical behavior, if there is no “user manual” for being human? How do we even translate the concepts of good and evil into the language of zeroes and ones? Could Shakespeare and Tolstoy help? How does AI intersect with issues of race, gender, aging and our future histories? How do old and new fictions about robots and automatons affect and reflect our way of thinking about AI in the 21st century? If superintelligent machines will be capable of human-level performance on the full range of tasks that are often thought to be uniquely human capacities, including general intelligence and moral reasoning, how will this impact on the way in which we conceive of ourselves? Will this translate into a radical end to human exceptionalism? Or, rather, will this force us to conclude that the most profound essence of our human nature lies in our fallibility? Will AI teach us that imperfection is what makes us human?

This salon took place on April, 3rd, 2018.

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