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The Earth is sick, and the causes of its disease lie in our choices, myopia, and lack of imagination. In our struggle to understand what is ruining our planet, we might find the solution in artificial intelligence.

Climate change, with deforestation, melting glaciers, mass extinctions and carbon emissions, is the biggest problem of the century. If you struggle to understand what is ruining our planet, perhaps you should look for clues in artificial intelligence. Oceanographers, biologists, and meteorologists successfully use a host of applications that allow you to see Earth from a whole different perspective.

Apocalypse according to the UN

As I was writing this post, I came across a dozen or so of articles on climate change. I never searched for this information. Some of it came to my mailbox in the form of headlines, the rest I came across easily on major websites. All of it had been published a day, if not hours earlier. The gist of each story was nearly identical to what I found in the New York Times: “… The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at unprecedented rates, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself…” A similarly somber mood dominated each of the other articles, many of which struck truly apocalyptic tones. And no wonder. …


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Personalization has conquered the market by employing a few basic psychological mechanisms married with technological capabilities. Although people grow hypersensitive about protecting their privacy, they then turn around and readily share their digital data and intimate life stories allowing brands to use such information to build lasting relationships with them. We help brands examine us and peer into the deepest recesses of our minds. Personalization would never happen without our willingness to share private content, our thoughtless consenting to the processing of data and our conviction that our personal uniqueness should be met with equally unique products and services. Algorithmic technologies cleverly use “psychology” to feed on our addictions. They encroach on our lives making sure we do not notice it too much. We are no longer surprised to receive an email from a company that addresses us by name. What we get is almost exactly what our ego wants: being noticed, appreciated and heard. By virtue of our involvement in this process, we are experiencing probably the biggest change in the history of customer-producer relationships. …


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For the first time in the history of societies, people will live with technology as a partner that is guided by its own rules and laws. Politicians are increasingly aware of the various consequences of AI expansion. Will they be able to regulate our relationship with AI?

Politicians are increasingly aware of the various consequences of the expansion of technologies linked to artificial intelligence. We do not know whether their assertions today will remain relevant a few years from now and whether the decisions they are currently making will prove to have been well-advised. However, their efforts to bring AI-related issues into order certainly deserve our attention.

For at least five years now, the world has been using artificial intelligence in the economy, education, science and in general public interest. Inevitably, the governments of many countries could no longer avoid reflecting deeply on their prior AI experience and the research into its essence. Artificial intelligence is not merely the perfect driver of economic development or yet another innovative IT solution. Rather, it is a powerful force that is changing the way societies work, creating a new kind of interpersonal relationships and new professional roles. New technologies are set to change the way we work, learn, rest, and communicate with one another. The Internet of Things will alter the functioning of cities, blockchain will revolutionize the authentication of financial transactions, voice assistants will become an important tool for obtaining information, while chatbots will dominate customer service. …


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How would one grant rights to machines? The matter still can’t be consulted with those concerned. Artificial intelligence will not tell us whether or not it feels people’s existing legal system is treating it well. So we have to manage alone and decide for it.

In late July 2019, the world learned that the company Neuralink was close to integrating the human brain with a computer. The first interface hoped to enable the feat was unveiled. We may thus be in for an incredible leap in expanding our cognitive abilities. The consequences of such a leap would be varied and we would certainly not avoid having to make unprecedented legal and ethical choices. In view of such a breakthrough, the question about machine rights or humanoid becomes all the more relevant. …


It only took a couple of weeks or so for the dark visions reminiscent of the Black Mirror tv series to become reality: think of drones hovering overhead and taking our body temperature and smartphone apps notifying law enforcement on whether we are staying home. Is the massive amount of health data collected during the pandemic going to be deleted once the dust settles?

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It has long been common knowledge that digital technology can keep track of our every activity online. The digital tracks we leave behind are easy to follow. Advertising agencies, online stores and online banks take advantage of this to target their ads and observe our shopping preferences. In recent weeks, however, these practices have been brought to a whole new level. Never before has technology been used so intensively and widely to monitor our health and, indirectly, to manage society. Such a large scale of extraordinary activities that endanger our privacy is something that only those living in the United States in the time immediately following 9/11 can remember. The Chinese may be somewhat less bewildered, having grown accustomed to their country’s social credit system which has long relied on data from the Internet, street cameras and smartphones to rate its citizens. …


Are algorithms capable of discrimination? I am afraid they are. What complicates the question is the fact that algorithm developers can hardly be accused of malicious intent. How then could a mathematical formula put individuals and communities in harm’s way?

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

As distant and aloof as mathematical equations may seem, they are also commonly associated with reliable, hard science. Every now and then, it nevertheless turns out that a sequence of numbers and symbols conceals a more ominous potential. What is it that causes applications, which otherwise serve a good cause, to go bad? There could be any number of reasons. One of the first ones that spring to mind has to do with human nature. People are known to follow a familiar mechanism of letting stereotypes and prejudices guide their lives. They apply them to other individuals, social groups, and value systems. Such cognitive patterns can easily be driven by the lack of imagination and a reluctance to give matters proper consideration. The resulting explosive mixture spawns negative consequences. People who blindly trust computer data fail to see the complexity of situations and easily forgo subjective assessments of events. Once that happens, unfortunate events unfold causing huge problems for everyone involved. …


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Millennials, who came into the world in the 1980s, and Generation Z, born in the mid-90s, believe in sharing just about anything: web links, streaming website subscriptions, city bikes, even apartments with holiday makers. As consumers develop a preference for sharing or renting goods and services over purchasing, global business is confronted with an interesting challenge.

The sharing economy is gathering momentum in modern business. Only a decade ago, the market niches in which consumers shared goods seemed like a passing fad. To many people’s surprise, not only has the trend not died, it actually seems to be growing stronger and even inspiring the decisions of large, tech companies. The popularity of such platforms as Netflix and Airbnb and such applications as Uber stems largely from the new mindsets of consumers born post 1980. …


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Until now, just about every time a conference devoted to smart cities offers examples of intelligent conurbations, it mentions areas in China and South Korea alongside London, Boston, Shanghai, New York and Dubai. It is in fact the Dubai authorities that aspire to place their city-state on the cutting edge of bringing IT and web-based technologies into the lives of their citizens. This said, the real revolution may well take place elsewhere, enshrined in the 2017 urban planning and development agreement between the authorities of Toronto, Canada and Google (or, to be precise, the Google-owned company Sidewalk Labs). Will this visionary venture usher us into another critical stage of testing the idea of ​​a smart city? Time will tell. Much depends on how this year’s heated debates between the supporters and opponents of the idea play out. …


Lawyers, politicians and business people alike feel that the laws in place are failing to keep up with technological advances. Is it possible to regulate artificial intelligence efficiently and do we need such regulation?

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There is an ongoing debate about how to regulate artificial intelligence. Lawyers, politicians and business people alike feel that the laws in place are failing to keep up with technological advances. The primary and secondary laws that are currently in force do not regulate technology properly. Is it possible to regulate artificial intelligence efficiently and do we need such regulation?

Not only are we struggling to grasp the logic behind algorithms, we — the citizens — are also in the dark about the way companies, institutions and services employ modern technology to surveil us in our day-to-day existence. Shouldn’t we be better protected while using computers, drones, applications, cameras and social networks? …


The question in my title may sound like heresy. There is no denying that smart algorithms can fascinate and delight us. They can enable digital transformations in business, revolutionize marketing methods and foster a world of efficiency, high speed and profit. But can they be our lifeline?

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Image source: https://wallpaperaccess.com/artificial-intelligence

To show that the question in the title can be answered affirmatively, I am going to explore the way smart technologies help resolve social problems. The problems include an aging labor force gradually leaving the labor market with no one to replace them. Such precisely is the painful experience of Japan. I have chosen this example as one that is particularly glaring. As I have said in this blog on many occassions, smart technologies can bring a business to a whole new level and become its ticket into the global digital ecosphere. Such technologies can help a company compete in the demanding world of technological innovation. But, as it turns out, there is also an alternative scenario. …

About

Norbert Biedrzycki

Technology is my passion. Head of Microsoft Services CEE. Private opinions only

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