How to be Human in the Age of Machine

‘How to be Human in the Age of Machine’ – Who will win the battle?

by Hilai Qahari

During my father’s time, in the 1950s, technology was a fascinating discovery because it made communication much easier and brought pictures to life. He did not need to travel 50 miles to speak to a relative, rather, he picked up the newly developed manual telephone and gave a ring within 30 seconds.

Thirty seven years later and onwards, machines started to show their talent and instead of telephones, mobile phones such as BlackBerry, Nokia, first generation of

iPhones, Samsung Galaxy S4 came into existence. It was the first attempt to provide wireless access to emails, internet and faxes. It brought with it a craze, especially amongst the youth. When I heard my friend had a BlackBerry, I went to ask her if she could share the fruit with me. Later did I realise that it was more than a fruit, it was a magical device that could connect you with anyone, anywhere within seconds.

In 2018, we can see the future clearly enough to determine the machines impact on our abilities and mobilities. An obvious example would be a toddler accessing her favourite YouTube video on an updated iPhone all by herself. However, this is not just limited to a phone or age, our lives are dominated by machines and technology of all sorts.

Recently, I went to attend an event called ‘How to be Human in the Age of Machines,’ which was led by the amazing and truly talented Hannah Fry. She highlighted the amount of trust and control we have given the machines. One of the most favourite of all is the algorithm, which is a sequence of computational steps that transforms input data into output data. For instance, the audience were asked to listen to two different musical pieces and identify which one was real and which one was computerised. More than 50% were unable to acknowledge the real version. This demonstrates that technology has come far to such an extent that it is able to misguide intellectual individuals who made it in first place.

On the other hand, technology do help us in most of our daily lives. The biggest example is the internet, which has given access to unlimited knowledge that only one mind cannot possess. The other famous one is the navigator that makes many drivers lives at ease. Yet, there are also flaws with the efficiency of the directions. For instance, two Japanese tourists were driving on a deserted road of the coast of Australia. They input the location of their destination into the navigators and it showed them a straight road ahead. It did not, however, showed them the ocean that was in between, hence, in the end, they ended up in the middle of the sea. We are all capable of making the same mistakes, whether it be machines or humans, but where do we put the limit? When do humans take full control?

Furthermore, the law is the most important element of any country in order to establish stability. But what happens when an artificial intelligence is introduced within the law? In the courtroom, defendants are given a questionnaire, which then determines the risk of them committing another crime. This is then taken into consideration by the judge and the jury when determining the sentence length and bail grant. In a very critical case, a teenager rapped a 14 years old in a consent relationship, in which the algorithm induced the information and predicted 18 months of prison. When this was compared to a similar case, where a 32 year old man, who had a high risk of committing an offence, the algorithm predicted that he would escape prison entirely. This is a clear examples of illogical reasoning, despite its impartiality.

Machines are great to have around, but they do not perceive the world as we do. Facial recognition is a key factor for the police in order to identify a criminal. One way to do that is by using facial recognition camera in the police van. Nonetheless, studies have shown that those cameras have 98% of failure rate and yet the police force use it. This makes it difficult to acknowledge whether it is the authority’s ignorance or lack of awareness that prompts their blind trust on the machines.

Additionally, we see context of a situation whereas the machine see what they are shown. In one instance, the algorithm was given a few pictures to identify for an image recognition assessment. For the first picture, it stated that there are pink flowers in a field and in the second picture, there is a cat sitting on top of a wooden fence. Clearly, we have given our trust and control to such machines that cannot tell a difference between a cat and a sheep.

If you have seen ‘I, Robot,’ then that could be our future as some countries are already making flying cars and robots. They have potential of doing good but as long as humans do not fade away with it. Machines are better and efficient than in humans in most instances, however, to ensure that we remain human in the age of machines, we need to know when to take control. Once we have the balance of both, there would be more appreciation of things created by humans. In fact, there may come a time where mass-produced goods made by machine will decrease in price because items made by humans will be are rare and have great value. One of the most important element to staying human is our social interaction that machines cannot overpower. The irony lies in the fact that “our technology future is not about technology but about humanity”.

If we have a balance of both humanity and the advancement of machines, then a bright future is guaranteed for all. A wise man once told me, instead of referring to it as artificial intelligence (AI), it should be known as intelligence assistance (IA), in order to remain human in the age of machines.

About Hilai Qahari

Hilai is currently studying law at Brunel University and she will be starting her placement year at the Home Office this year. She took an internship at Empowering Futures during the summer; her dynamic personality and professionalism made her a great asset for the social enterprise.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *