we need to save ignorance from AI
in an age of all-knowing algorithms, how do we choose not to know?
by christina leuker and wouter van den bos, artificial intelligence
curiosity is mankind’s primary passion.
but what if a technology came along that shifted this balance unpredictably, complicating how we make decisions about when to remain ignorant?
that technology is here: It’s called artificial intelligence.
germany passed legislation that prohibits self-driving cars from identifying people on the street by their race, age, and gender. this means that the car will never be able to inform its driving decisions—and especially the decisions it needs to take when an accident is unavoidable—with data from these categories.
in line with this way of thinking, the european union’s new general data protection regulation (GDPR), which became effective in may 2018, states that companies are permitted to collect and store only the minimum amount of user data needed to provide a specific, stated service, and to get customers’ consent for how their data will be used.
such a restriction on data capture may also prevent second-order inferences.
one important limitation of the GDPR approach is that companies can give themselves very broad objectives.
researchers found that some MIT students would share their friends’ contact data for a slice of pizza.5 clearly, further restrictions are needed. but how many?
in most cases we are actually talking about data that is owned by you and me.
We have been careless in giving it away for shiny apps without considering the consequences.
the economist has written that the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil—it’s data.
but data is very different from oil.
data is an unlimited resource, it’s owned by individuals, and it’s best exchanged without any transactional economic value.
taking the profit out of oil kills the oil market.
as a first step, taking profit out of data provides the space we need to create and maintain ethical standards that can survive the coming of AI, and pave the way for managing collective ignorance.
In other words, as data becomes one of the most useful commodities of the modern world, it also needs to become one of the cheapest.