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Unpacking Artificial Intelligence

An Introduction to Fifty Shades of AI

This article is a work in progress to create the introduction to a book I am writing called Fifty Shades of AI.

Making Artificial Intelligence Work for our Shared Ecology

After having worked with the issue of sustainability for a few years since the Paris Conference in 2015 the buzz of artificial intelligence caught my attention. It was in early 2019 after talking to a weapon scientist about autonomous weapons that I began to feel a sense of concern.

Walking out into the rain after the conversation I looked upwards to the sky wondering to myself how to begin. After having wondered about sustainability, should I try to tackle another complex term: artificial intelligence? It was a confusing moment that demanded an answer.

Shortly after I found myself in front of my computer and I started writing. I decided on June the 3rd 2019 to write one new article about artificial intelligence every day for 500 days. In the present I am well past over 100 days and articles. I began talking more about the topic and now I am writing this book to gather my thoughts.

Technology is built by people and is in no way neutral. Algorithms are also cultural decisions and there is talk of bias as if opinion was new or fake news as if propaganda disappeared. It is easy to be critical of applications of AI. However I cannot only bring criticism to the table.

I have found during these days large questions and fascinating solutions. There is much good within the field of artificial intelligence as much as it poses a risk to humanity. I am interested in everything in-between, which is what I aim to begin discussing in this book.

Unpacking the AI Suitcase

During the last few years particularly there has been a growing interest for artificial intelligence (AI) around the planet. From the promising applications within healthcare (Kalis, B. et al, 2018) to the ongoing AI arms race (Pecotic, 2019) this raises both a series of possibilities as well as risks. One thing we know for certain is that there might be a need to understand what common definitions AI contain when its use is becoming so widespread.

Both artificial and intelligence can be notoriously difficult to define, as such combining the two does not lessen the level of confusion. One prominent AI researcher by the name Marvin Minsky described artificial intelligence as a ’suitcase word’ that carries a lot of different meanings (Minsky, 2007).

As such saying artificial intelligence does in itself bring up a field of related subject areas and will inevitably lead to misinterpretations. We can imagine or observe leaders in politics and business discussing this term with great vigour. Perhaps this is an event that you have already experienced first-hand? Most bring a different suitcase when they unpack AI.

This is day 108 of #500daysofAI. My current focus for day 101–200 is mostly on Python programming, however today I choose to edit the introduction to a book I am working on. If you enjoy this article please give me a response as I do want to improve my writing or discover new research, companies and projects.



AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.

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