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In the Age of AI (2019)In the Age of AI (2019)

Imagine a government program that required every house to have a bar code, or to download compulsory software in order for your cell phone to work. Imagine software that knew if you are a good credit risk based upon how often you charge your phone battery. Imagine being able to predict breast cancer or how you will vote with near perfect accuracy. And those 18-wheeler trucks with no drivers? That's already here. For those of us who are non-technical people, this two-hour PBS Frontline documentary is an excellent if terrifying introduction to the "promise and perils" of artificial intelligence. AI is here to stay, and like all technology, it is a one-way street of increasing complexity, power, and effectiveness. This movie considers AI through five stories. There's China's determination to lead the AI world by 2030. The second story explores the "profoundly good news" of how AI offers "terrific solutions to urgent problems." A third chapter looks at Saginaw, Michigan, as one example of the massive disruptions in work caused by AI—disruptions that are qualitatively different than in past history, and on a par with the advent of the steam engine, electricity, and the computer. The last two stories are the most troubling: surveillance capitalism and the surveillance state. The one sliver of hope in all this is that in recent years some of the leading tech insiders have become aware of the Frankenstein Effect of what they have created, and are beginning to sound the alarm.

Dan Clendenin:

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