Ginni Rometty, the chairman and CEO of IBM, spoke about the future of artificial intelligence at the World of Watson event, designed to showcase the “ecosystem” of innovation happening around Watson, IBM’s signature artificial-intelligence system.
“In the future, every decision that mankind makes is going to be informed by a cognitive system like Watson,” she said; “and our lives will be better for it.”
Business Insider calls it a “bold prediction.” But I think we can go one better:
In the future, mankind’s most important decisions will be made by informed, cognitive systems like Watson, and our lives will be better for it.
Why isn’t Rometty’s comment “bold”? Businesses and businesspeople use information from computers to inform their decisions all the time; this statement just suggests they’ll be using more advanced systems, like Watson, in the future. Nothing bold about that.
It’s also not particularly game-changing. Even with the best of information, people still make the final decisions… and in doing so, they often ignore the best information and go with more emotional feelings, compassionate responses, “gut reactions,” etc. Which is sometimes just fine: Emotional or compassionate decisions can make things easier for employees, or make products more enticing for customers, which sometimes even improves the bottom line.
But if you think about it, the more advanced systems like Watson, and whatever its progeny will be, should be able to incorporate most of the more “human” concepts of compassion, a basic understanding of human emotion, and even weigh subjective data to better inform its decisions. At that point, human decisionmakers should reach a point where they are confident enough to accept the system’s decision without second-guessing it, and take the position of organizing the follow-through on the decision.
This is where I see the future of computing developing, and why I’ve advocated for a Logocracy that would utilize just such a system to make major decisions and pass laws as a major component of the U.S. federal government. The Logocratic arm of the government—let’s call it WatsonII— would essentially replace the Legislative arm, aka Congress… or, more accurately, place congressional staffers in the position of gathering data from their states and inputting it into WatsonII. WatsonII would process the data from each state and municipality and write laws based on the idea of improving the health, welfare and spirit of the American people. The laws would be reviewed by the Executive and Judicial branches, as they are now, with veto power still held by the President and the courts (though WatsonII would supposedly know the law well enough that it would very rarely make new laws that would be considered unconstitutional, it might also encounter loopholes that would allow it to make examples of precedent).
And though the idea of a Logocratic system would meet initial resistance, because, humans, I further predict that WatsonII-type systems will first be seen making everything from major corporate decisions to lesser personal decisions; and do them well enough that the public’s present resistance to being told what to do by a computer (as opposed to a boss, a politician or a talking head on TV) will soften and eventually relent. Eventually, computers will have the chance to prove that they will be better decisionmakers in major tasks than us. And we’ll be okay with that.
What a bold world that will be.