China Has Already Won. But We’re Fighting The Wrong Fight

While I was in China this past week, Google dissolved its 10-day-old AI ethics council. Why? Because of AI bias, a super-important, completely misnamed topic. There’s no such thing as AI bias. It’s human bias that is being inflicted on AI as we try to teach our flexible moral codes to inanimate computational engines that have no context. “Hey, you look great today!” we happily say to someone who looks terrible. “Wow! Your home is just beautiful,” we say with as much sincerity as humanly possible while observing the tasteless interior decorations of a friend’s home. Your spouse (trying to make you a better human being): “Did you call your mother this week?” You (lying through your teeth): “I tried, but it went straight to voicemail and I didn’t leave a message.” White lies? True lies? Just plain lies? Humans lie because there are evolutionary stable reasons to do so.

Richard Dawkins posits that we learn to lie as infants as we figure out what kind of crying will get our mother’s immediate attention. According to Sun Tsu, “War is the art of deception.” To be human is to lie. On the other hand, to be a machine (forgive the anthropomorphism) is to calculate probabilities to determine the best (mathematically truest) answer. Machines don’t lie by themselves; they must be specifically taught to do so (by humans). For example: Libratus, Carnegie Mellon University’s championship-level Texas Hold’em–playing AI system, bluffs like a pro. BTW, bluffs are lies.

Do we need an AI bias council? Sure. It’s a great idea. Will it help the United States maintain its position as the technological leader of planet Earth? No. China has already won the AI race, and the United States may not have a way to catch up.

We can chat all we like about human biases creating AI biases with our Western cultural ideology, but if there is going to be anything like an AI bias council, it should probably be held in Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen. Chinese cultural and political norms are going to have a much bigger influence over AI bias than anything we do here in America.

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Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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Gary Anderson 7 months ago Contributor's comment

Interesting article. Yes, how people fit in with the machines is an issue. I think AI is overrated. We won't be hearing from Hal. And they can keep their self driving (another lie) cars. But, yes, China will make the most of AI. China seeks prosperity while the US seeks power and domination.