People are freaking out at the possibility that one day artificial intelligence (AI) will take away so many jobs done by humans, and become so smart, that it will threaten the livelihoods and quality of lives of human beings. Some people fear AI will become so smart that people will be stupid by comparison. Scary thought, indeed.
But there’s a way for people to fight this battle. The idea is to confuse and play mind games with AI. This is sort of like when you’re playing basketball and you give your defender a pump fake pretending you’re about to shoot. But once your gullible opponent leaps to block your shot, you hold the ball and drive past them for an easy layup.
How do you confuse AI?
Let’s start with this real-world but sort of alternative universe example. You have an Alexa device in your house. You know that if you tell Alexa to play a song you want to hear such as “Sweet Caroline” by Neal Diamond, Alexa will quickly retrieve that song and play it for you.
But this transaction comes with a threat to your civil liberties. You become ensnarled in a classic good news/bad news situation. The good news: You get to hear a song you like instantly. The bad news: Alexa then knows more about you.
She can figure out with a higher probability of accuracy what other songs similar to Sweet Caroline you are likely to want Alexa to retrieve and play.
Alexa will get to know so much about you that it could start to creep you out and make you question if you’re being followed by some inanimate conniving force like you sometimes see on “Star Trek” episodes. The more Alexa knows about you the more potential she has to control and manipulate you. Nothing less than your fundamental freedoms as a human being are at stake.
So what do you do?
You play mind games with Alexa. Outwit her. Tell Alexa you want to hear a song you detest such as “We Built This City” by Starship. You are not alone: In a semi-scientific survey of music fans, this song earned the dubious honor of being rated the “worst song of all time.”
Because you asked Alexa to play it, she will. But you can turn it off because you don’t like it. Just because you ask Alexa to play a song doesn’t mean you have to listen to it. This will make you feel powerful compared with Alexa. This boils down to you versus artificial intelligence, battling each other’s brain power.
And here’s the best part: Alexa will not have grown any more wise about the songs you like to hear. Tapping into her sexy algorithms, she will go to work figuring out the probability that you like to hear a song sort of like “We Built This City,” such as “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Rippert. If not the worst song ever, it’s in the top 10.
But like every other music fan, you won’t like that one either. You will not be alone. No one anywhere likes either of these songs including the bands who produced them.
The downside is you won’t get to hear songs you want to hear. Everything in life comes with a price tag. But you care much less about hearing a song you like than Alexa knowing too much about you. You don’t want your privacy being invaded and a computer software controlling your life. It’s human nature.
You have not given Alexa information that helps her figure out more about you. She has been deceived. Go on and be down with your cool self.
You have outfoxed a digitized woman. You will never accomplish this with a real woman, especially a foxy one, but that’s a multi-layered topic for a different day and a more politically incorrect audience.
You have outwitted a computer and its intimidating and intellectually arrogant algorithms. Better that than the other way around. Darwinism reigns. Either you survive or AI does. We all know where your loyalties lie.
Consider another example. Let’s say you want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow in your hometown. Ask Alexa to tell you tomorrow’s weather for three towns located at least 2,897 miles from your house.
Alexa will give you all that weather information for 17 places. But don’t bother listening because you don’t care what the answers are. You won’t be in those places tomorrow and, even if you were — by some weird coincidence — going to only one of the 17, you can find out the weather when you get there.
No need to burden yourself with too much information especially when you have so many other to-do items to take care of before you leave, such as remembering to pack enough underwear.
Now you have thrown Alexa off on an aimless and pointless tangent. She’s mystified and bewildered, a lost soul in cyberspace. She deduces you probably live in one of those 17 places. Wielding her machine-learning skills, she will make future assessments of you and make probability evaluations about your interest in these places.
But Alexa will be doing algorithms using bogus information. She won’t know any more about you than before you asked for the weather in the 17 faraway places. Not only will Alexa’s power of you be diminished, she will be hunting around for insights about you in all the wrong places. You will have rendered Alexa a dolt.
If you really want to know tomorrow’s weather in your hometown, turn on the Weather Channel and search for the forecast for your town. You will get what you need that way without disrobing yourself to Alexa.
Now let’s take this one step further into the stratosphere. You say to Alexa: “Play We Built This City in the 17 towns where I asked you for the weather.”
Alexa will be blown away. She will start trying all sorts of ways of making sense of your request using an entirely misleading pile of junk data. Imagine how messed up mentally this will make Alexa. She may get so frustrated she will do what computers do when they’re confounded: crash. Her algorithms will explode.
She will try to figure out, for instance, another song you may like that is similar to “We Built This City” and synthesize that with the 17 cities you asked her to give you the weather forecast for.
You can imagine her thought processes: “What’s a song like “We Built This City” in Seattle, Washington, or Sacramento, California, and what do these things all have in common that tell me more about this person so I can know so much about them that one day I will be smarter than them and control their lives?
Those thought processes will be nothing more than a mishmash of balderdash. Alexa will be flummoxed. She won’t have a clue about you.
You will have outsmarted her. Feel haughty. Feel relief. Sit and watch TV. Or go outside for a walk. Or drive your car down the road, knowing that you remain in control of your life. You, a human being, will have fended off the artificial intelligence onslaught.
In the existential head game now vexing our planet, you emerged victorious — at least for today.
— Charles Hartley
Charles Hartley is the president of Carolina Content & Media Relations Corporation based in Davidson, North Carolina. The company improves the quality of writing, content marketing and media relations for high-tech businesses. He also writes a tech humor blog, “Tech Tales From the Hart.” He earned an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and master’s degrees from The American University and Rutgers University.