If you look at where artificial intelligence (AI) is being initially focused, it is mostly being directed at autonomous robots, including cars, that will eventually do what humans do now, on creating better recommender engines, to get us to buy more stuff, and on sales tools also focused on getting us to buy more stuff.
Oh, and it is also being focused both on creating malware that would be very hard to stop and tools to stop that malware once it invades your space and on ever more capable autonomous weapons systems.
But it strikes me that our initial priorities should be focused more on correcting endemic problems rather than effectively creating new ones, like massive unemployment, AI-driven fraud and malware, and weapons.
Let’s look at three missing strategic opportunities for AI:
1. Helping kids make better decisions
When most of us were kids, we went to school because we had to. We had no deeper goal nor did we have any idea what kind of career would benefit us.
Many of us came out of college with near worthless degrees in subject areas like literature that had little relation to what we wanted or needed to have to create a career we’d enjoy. In fact, I’d argue that most of us start our careers with little or no idea of what we like and dislike in a job. Instead, we learn that over time as we advance out of our first jobs in college.
And the lack of STEM students is severely hampering our ability to compete on a global scale, with way too many people coming out of colleges and universities with skills the market doesn’t need and too few with skills it does need.
One obvious use of personal AIs would be to use what has been learned by those that enjoy their careers to connect the dots to kids that have similar behavioral attributes and interests. This could enable them to fast track into a job and career they are more likely to enjoy. Their education would be focused not on merely completing that education, but on gaining the critical skills they’ll need to be successful in a career.
2. Bad idea protection
We are surrounded by digital assistants, some of which observe and most of which listen to us during the day.
We often make mistakes, because our actions exceed our ability to think through those actions timely. Road rage, an inappropriate post on social media, or an inappropriate joke all can cause catastrophic and long-lasting consequences that we should want to avoid.
A monitoring AI that was trained on past bad behaviors could alert you that you are in the process of making a huge mistake and even actively prevent you from making it by disconnecting your keyboard, smartphone, or disabling your car to protect you from yourself.
Many of us can be our own worst enemy and having an AI that has your back could go a long way to assuring you don’t accidentally destroy your career or life.
3. Relationship guidance
Those of us who have happy relationships seem to be in the minority, and it strikes me that there are a lot of people that should never get married for their own good.
Again, an AI that has been trained to identify bad relationships and on identifying behaviors that destroy relationships could go a long way toward helping people find better mates and, once found, make sure the relationship lasts. Simply sharing the downside of a work relationship might help prevent one that would otherwise turn out to be career or life limiting. And it could alert those who shouldn’t get married that doing so will most likely result in a ton of regret.
AIs should be focused on helping ensure that not only are both parties compatible, but both are on the same page when it comes to managing a relationship, so the typical expensive breakup or divorce, rather than being almost certain, becomes exceedingly rare.
Using AI to help us
Artificial intelligence is one of the major new tools that will define our future. Yet, it isn’t focused enough on assuring we want to live in the future that it defines.
There is a significant risk that future AIs will be hostile to humanity and the best way to avoid that outcome is to over pivot on assuring they are designed to help people, rather than to replace or sell to them. Helping people make better life decisions can go a long way to both improving their productivity and happiness, benefiting us far more broadly than AI robots that replace us, sell to us, or are designed for weapons.
If we can instead focus the AI on helping kids make better career-oriented decisions, protect us from our own stupid ideas, and assure both our relationship skills are stronger and longer lasting, we could go a long way towards assuring a brighter future for all of us. Sadly, I doubt we will see this priority shift any time soon.