Deus Ex...Artificial Intelligence?

Mar 5, 2019

With guest host Todd Zwillich.

Professor Amy Webb says that ““we are entering a period in which you can be expected to talk to machines for the rest of your life.”

She’s a tech futurist at New York University. And she says there are just nine companies controlling the future of artificial intelligence. They are the American companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft and the Chinese companies Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

If all these companies are the source of our future using AI, how can we be sure they will optimize their technology for our use? What does optimization even mean in this context?

Here’s an example Webb writes about:

Researchers at New York’s Ichan [sic] School of Medicine ran a deep-learning experiment to see if it could train a system to predict cancer. The school, based within Mount Sinai Hospital, had obtained access to the data for 700,000 patients, and the data set included hundreds of different variables. Called Deep Patient, the system used advanced techniques to spot new patterns in data that didn’t entirely make sense to the researchers but turned out to be very good at finding patients in the earliest stages of many diseases, including liver cancer. Somewhat mysteriously, it could also predict the warning signs of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. But even the researchers who built the system didn’t know how it was making decisions. The researchers built a powerful AI—one that had tangible commercial and public health benefits—and to this day they can’t see the rationale for how it was making its decisions. Deep Patient made clever predictions, but without any explanation, how comfortable would a medical team be in taking next steps, which could include stopping or changing medications, administering radiation or chemotherapy, or going in for surgery?

These are all questions Webb asks and analyzes in her new book, “The Big Nine: How The Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity.”

She joins us to talk about that and answer your burning questions about the future of technology.

Produced by Haili Blassingame and Danielle Knight.


Amy Webb, Professor of strategic foresight, NYU; founder, The Future Today Institute; author, “The Big Nine: How The Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity”; @Amywebb

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