Ai as an Ally, not a Foe

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A simplification of the Artificial Intelligence framework and its capacity to expand.

Hang the DJ is a perfect example of algorithms gone awry. The protagonist finds someone who he believes is special enough to transcend the system, and subsequently plans to revolt so that the fledgling couple can continue seeing one another. In the ultimate meta-twist, the couple discovers that they themselves are the simulation and had no agency to begin with. The episode highlights an especially pertinent problem with algorithms and simulations; their rigidity. No matter how desperately the two plead with the devices regulating the simulation, all effort ends to no avail. Algorithms, by definition, do not deviate from their function because of any human element or attempts to deter. As a result, extremely reasonable requests fall on deaf “ears.” The same logic applies in day-to-day interactions: stories of individuals being denied flights because of irrelevant data or homebuyers losing credit points because of purely checking their credit scores surface regularly. Without adjusting the underlying fundamentals of the algorithm and better aligning it with what truly matters, nonsensical decisions will continue to occur, with the algorithm still technically performing “properly.”

Ironically, though, Hang the DJ alludes to an alternative possibility. Namely, a world in which algorithms superficially appear destructive or underinformed- they deny us common human privileges, like the opportunity to pursue love in Hang the DJ, or reject our attempt at a mortgage. However, beyond our initial frustration, we discern a greater motivation for the denial. In other words, an algorithm that essentially knows better than we do. This type of AI has our best interests in mind and is agnostic towards the short-term exasperations that hinder our progress. Whether or not such a creation is feasible remains to be seen, but a means of overcoming one of the “final” remaining human flaws, our predisposition to indulge in harmful emotions that obstruct objectives, might make us slightly less humane, but in the process drive better outcomes.

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