Matter Chatter

Artificial Intelligence: Understanding Arnold’s Battle with Skynet

As we’re immersed in the development and advances in technology on a daily basis, we probably don’t stop to think what our creations will look like in the future – or further, how they will act. An interesting topic of discussion throughout many industries lately has been around artificial intelligence (AI) and the future it holds for society.

One side of the debate is skepticism and fear that integrating artificial intelligence into our day-to-day lives will ultimately lead to robots taking over the world. Seriously. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla compared AI to “summoning the demon” and Bill Gates, CEO and founder of Microsoft, also backs up Musk and states how he doesn’t understand why people aren’t concerned. The ultimate fear is how AI could end humanity. For most, these theories – even though held by some of the most brilliant minds – seem like a stretch. Though it certainly does seem like Skynet is more of a real possibility than ever before.

The opposing argument of course is that AI holds nothing but promise for humanity. One of Google’s Co-Founders Mustafa Suleyman states in a recent Business Insider article that AI won’t destroy us but will empower us. As a PR pro working with both consumer and technology companies, one thing I can say for sure is that AI is permeating across industries and making meaningful impacts. The potential for this technology is enormous and public perception, understanding and adoption will likely play a large role in the direction this technology ultimately takes. I am increasingly recognizing the role that communication professionals will play in educating the public around this powerful technology. The question then becomes – do we paint a picture of Skynet and total destruction, or do we prefer an AI the likes of Scarlett Johansson – perhaps Siri is enough for you?

One of the early adopters and strongest existing use cases for AI can be found in healthcare. An industry with plenty of opportunity for innovation and improvement, healthcare is ripe for high impact technologies incorporating AI. Many forward thinkers in the space are looking at AI as a real differentiator and opportunity to improve patient outcomes. Companies in both biotechnology and healthcare IT are utilizing the advances of artificial intelligence to improve their products for medical use with the hopes it will improve patient care. Mobile technology, for example, is able to use facial recognition to determine if the right person is taking the right prescription at the right time, allowing physicians to confirm the patients are taking their medication as directed.

Many of you may have seen IBM Watson win Jeopardy. In that instance, the cognitive computer was given access to general information using its DeepQA. Imagine if you gave that same intelligent device access to the most cutting edge medical research and journals. We could arm every physician on the planet with the ability to instantly mine and analyze the most current research to identify ideal treatment courses. With this positioning, AI seems to hold enough promise to gamble a bit on the potential for peril.

Just this week, Facebook announced its most recent developed app called Moments, which uses facial recognition technology to identify which friends are in a particular photo. Users can then share the pictures with the friend in the shot, and they can choose to share their photos with a wider audience of friends. The Moments app uses the same facial recognition technology that powers the photo tagging suggestions on Facebook. Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in a recent interview with CNBC that with artificial intelligence “we have a chance to build a new generation of apps and services that are more neutral, intuitive, and valuable.”

It’s certainly an interesting debate and one that will continue for many years to come. The power we hold as communication professionals allows us to creatively and strategically position our clients and how they could align with AI. We want to continue painting a positive picture surrounding AI and our clients who employ it in a positive and responsible light. We certainly don’t want them slipping into the Skynet debate. As a PR pro, the last thing I want my clients being associated with is the rise of the robots. I’m not sure there is a crisis communications plan in the world capable of dealing with that. By strategically positioning our clients within the innovative sector of AI, we’re able to increase understanding around what AI is and is not, and if we are doing our job right, advance adoption of these next-generation technologies that promise to improve our lives.

Tell us your thoughts on artificial intelligence. Do you think the risk is worth the reward or will robots end up controlling the universe?