Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Inequality: Lecture by Craig Wing

In a special lecture AI: Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Inequality presented on campus during Global Entrepreneurship Week, Craig Wing, FutureWorld International Partner and MBA ’10, explored how humans can react to and accommodate new technology and ultimately choose to take action for the best possible outcome.

Craig opened the lecture with the well-known “six degrees of separation” saying, suggesting that it’s actually “three point two” degrees in today’s hyper-connected world. While the ability to reach around the world sounds beneficial, Craig quickly stopped any feel good thoughts with one sentence: “If you’re not connected, you’re excluded.” Meaning, if you do not have the access to technology, you risk being excluded not only from the conversation, but also from information and new types of digital intelligence. In fact, many future technologies and possibilities are based upon the premise of existing access, to 5G cell technology for example. But what happens if you don’t have that access? In this way, technology may actually accelerate, rather than equalize, inequalities.

Drawing upon mostly real and a few imagined situations, ranging from self-driving cars to robots with citizenship and mice with human ears, Craig painted a picture of the possible implications of technology. For example, the rules-based engine of AI has the potential to replace humans’ jobs. The factory of the future may not be so far off, as Ocado, a British online grocery company, is demonstrating.

With a graph charting compassion needed on one axis and creativity and strategy on another, Craig explained that there are four types of jobs. Jobs that require neither compassion nor creativity, like tele-sales or customer support, are the easiest to automate – Or, in Craig’s words, “AI will take your job.” This sounded dismal, until Craig pointed to jobs that require both creativity and compassion, like social work and marketing, and suggested that these could remain “human first,” with the human deciding if and how to use AI. This is not all bad and hints at a different, more optimistic way in which humans can engage with and leverage AI.

What ran as a continuous theme through Craig’s lecture is an emphasis on responsibility. Tech is often labeled as racist or sexist – but Craig rejected that and put the onus back on humans, asking, “What are we feeding [tech]?” With what biases are we subconsciously programming tech? What potentially flawed data sets are we inputting? This line of thought gets complicated quickly when you consider a situation in which tech goes wrong, like a terrible accident involving a self-driving car. Who is to blame?

Just as much as humans have input into technology, so can technology have input into humans, if scientists ever figure out how to upload information to human brains (a real possibility) and how to 3-D print human hearts – which begs the question, “What is the essence of being human?” Craig posited emotions as that which makes us different from technology. When Ke Jie, a Chinese professional Go player, played against the Google program AlphaGo and lost 3-0, he was upset. The most liked comment to this news was: “You lost and you cried. The machine won, but it didn’t smile.”

Leaving us with more questions than ever (on purpose), Craig encouraged human feeling as the counter balance to AI. New technology will happen, and it’s no longer a question whether we can innovate and push boundaries, but rather if we should and how. Advising the audience to “be more human” and “let emotions guide you” in its reactions to technology, Craig closed in true ET&A fashion and asked for action: “What is the action you’re going to take either to make sure versions of this happen or versions of this don’t happen?” For a Babson audience, the takeaway – and the challenge – is truly entrepreneurial in nature.

Interested in hearing more from Craig? Watch the full recording of his lecture or follow him on Twitter at @wingnuts123.