We increasingly use apps for everyday tasks that used to take place in person.
What happens once all those apps we use become a digital version of us?
Call us careless: we happily relinquish the notion of absolute privacy in exchange for the irresistible convenience of a mobile lifestyle. Mobile banking, coupon-clipping apps… we’ll gladly fork over personal data for these and more: even the insignificant convenience of having all our rewards cards stored digitally on our phones.
We even hand over family scheduling to our phones, via apps like Cozi. And most major retailers now have apps for their customers, who gladly download them onto their phones.
Privacy is one concern. But there’s another.
We all know there’s a potential privacy concern here, if app-giving retailers and developers should ever experience data leaks. Some manufacturers, like Apple, have found ways to perform deep learning (the engine of artificial intelligence) of your data on your device itself. That way, there’s less chance that data will become compromised in transit to servers.
Others ensure that the data your device sends is stripped of all personal markers so you are essentially anonymous. These measures may help to keep safe your personal treasure trove of constantly increasing data collected via apps on your phone.
But there’s an even bigger concern.
What happens when our app-crazy culture meets the culture of the future, where artificial intelligence is as common in daily life as apps are right now?
Will all this data go to feeding an artificial intelligence machine that performs some of our more mundane tasks? Will A.I. entities be doing our banking for us? Scheduling dinner? Telling us how to bank, what to eat? How does this even work?
Big Data Feeds Artificial Intelligence
Thanks to our love for apps, endless amounts of data (“Big Data”) could someday become available to whatever A.I. entities are looming in our future. The whole Internet of Things, in fact, is positioning us all for a new world where artificial intelligence plays a much larger role in our daily lives.
The way it works is: A.I. devours data from your apps, your fitness watch, your programmable coffee maker, the Smart streetlamps in a Smart City, or whatever other sources of data it’s given access to. In order to learn, it looks for patterns in all that data. The more data it can devour, the more patterns it can discover. It then performs analysis on those patterns.
Once it’s “learned” enough, it’s able to see the world in a way that transcends individual expression. And once our behavior is reduced to patterns, those patterns can become exploited, and so on… now you see why people fear A.I. It could even learn to take action on your behalf.
If you’re not sure what all that even means, you’re not alone, so here are a few very plausible examples…
What the future looks like after depersonalized privacy becomes the norm.
Imagine your scheduling app canceling a dinner reservation on your behalf because it discovers the Yelp rating is too low. Then it reschedules you for dinner at a different restaurant, one with more Yelp stars.
Or consider this: your A.I.-driven phone cancels a reminder to have lunch with a colleague because that colleague doesn’t have enough important connections on LinkedIn. The A.I. has deemed that colleague “unworthy” of your professional time, and feels you should have lunch with someone more influential.
How about in personal finance: your A.I.-powered device is out there looking for a better mortgage rate, finds one, and applies for a refinance on your behalf. Many of us are already handing over investment decisions to robo advisors that work on simple algorithms. It’s not too far of a leap.
In all these scenarios, A.I. might think it’s looking out for your best interest. And in a way, it is. But where are you in the equation? Your social life, your career, and your finances are now guided by artificial intelligence, leaving no room for individualized, personality-based decision making and the quirkiness of being human, fallible, and creative.
Such possibilities are certainly not what everyone thinks about when they download and use apps! That stuff is sooo far away in the future, right?
Artificial Intelligence is Coming (wait- it’s here!)
Whether you’re like Google’s Demis Hassabis who believes that A.I. is “potentially a meta-solution to any problem”, or you’re more in tune with Stephen Hawking’s thinking and you think A.I. will end mankind, one thing’s for sure: AI is coming. Not only that, but it’s coming fast
And guess what powers A.I. ? You’ve just learned: Big data. The kind that’s harvested from all those apps you love. That, along with data visualization and heavy-powered data analysis are what’s driving the huge surge in A.I. capabilities at the moment. It’s happening faster than any other technological advance in history, too. Some would say it’s here already: self-driving car prototypes are already on the roads, for example.
Think it’s too soon to worry about A.I. and privacy?
Are you aware of the speed of the rise of A.I.?
Technology (the invention of steel) changed lives during the Industrial revolution, but it wasn’t until mass production of the automobile nearly 100 years later that lives changed that much again. That’s nearly a century for everyone to get used to change, and for legislation to catch up… just think: child labor laws didn’t pass until after the turn of the 20th century, well over 100 years past the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Now, there’s barely time to get used to this week’s new grocery list app before there’s another wave of technology making dramatic changes in our lives. One minute we’re impressed by online banking. The next minute 90% of people in the U.S. are using their phones to do at least some basic form of banking transactions. That’s fast.
So think fast- it’s one thing to depersonalize your privacy and contribute to the massive stores of data in the world. But it’s a whole new world of possibility when you consider all that data could feed a massive database creating an A.I. entity that comes around full circle to take over your everyday tasks.