Month: November 2019

Writing 08: Automation & AI

Artificial intelligence is definitely something to be embraced with caution. There are many sci-fi horror stories of AI completely absorbing the world in an utter chaos resulting in human destruction. For example, my mother thinks they will evolve to become more dominant than human beings. The reality, at least so it seems, is that humans are in control of the AI and that though they learn, it is almost always directed by human control. Therefore, if something like the scenario I just mentioned occured, it would lie on the human conscience, not some robotic super power. That said, the responsibility of AI clearly lies on the software developers. Software developers have the responsibility to develop AI that is safe, doesn’t cause harm, and upholds common moral standards. Engineers are not the only individuals in society who must hold responsibility for AI. Countless philosophers and great thinkers are and must ponder the issue of AI decision making. If AI evolve so closely to human nature, these individuals have the responsibility to debate and finalize essential questions. Should the AI of a self-driving car hit a child instead of an adult if it must? Should the car kill a driver? Should the AI choose to kill someone in self-defense? How do they determine what is reasonable for ‘self-defense.’ Though AI are incredibly promising, a lot of these decisions cannot be made my calculations and previous learning. Society has to inform these agents of notions regarding right and wrong–which is evidently hard to program. 


I believe AI and automation are amazing methods to improve quality of life and society. Though this is largely seen as a benefit, I understand the many costs. One of the articles mentioned that the most common job in the United States are truck drivers, which I found surprising. The article continued to explain that if driverless trucks were fully integrated, unemployment would soar. Though unemployment is certainly concerning, we have seen these types of revolutions before in the industrial revolution. A video in class mentioned an example when farming jobs were on the ultimate decline due to tractors and automation. To respond to this, society began to invest in high school education to provide a safety net for jobs. I believe today the situation is no different. Machines replacing workers should encourage workers to become more educated and get more jobs. As I am working for Amazon Robotics next year, I have thought about the implications of automating robots. I think that Amazon’s number one tenet is to be customer obsessed and focus on experience. Given this, the robots are enhancing customer experience through 1 day shipping and efficiency for floor workers. The concept as I understand it is trickle-down economics. Implementing robots makes Amazon efficient which allows them to spend more money on adding jobs with higher pay. In addition, the workers lives drastically improves as they don’t need to walk 15-20 miles a day. The end goal of society should be for everyone to have well-educated and better jobs. Our society must ensure the general workforce is educated enough to attain these jobs.



Writing 07: Censorship

The internet certainly is public service and fair access should be a basic right. I do certainly think though that certain providers should have the ability to charge for their services. By this, I mean that streaming services should be allowed to charge for their content. However, I do not think traditionally free services shouldn’t be throttled or require payment. For example, Google’s search engine, facebook, and youtube are all fundamental components of the internet that every person should have equal access. Every company, streaming service or phone carrier, is free to have their business interest in mind. Whether they promote hulu, netflix, or give free entertainment in another form, the business choice should be free and their choice to determine winners and losers in the market. However, the line is crossed when companies punish customers for using competitor services by throttling the other service.

While the idea of an open and free internet is wonderful, there certainly needs to be regulation to prevent civilian horrors. We now know that some of the mass shootings were preceded not only by online posts but were fully supported by online groups. These are the types of online activity that must be watched and monitored. I believe the government needs to create an internet regulatory service devoted to finding these types of internet activity. 

There are many unethical actions for companies regarding technology in the US. It is unethical to suppress dissenting opinions for governments. The other three topics are difficult because certain companies are allowed to do as they wish. For example, I don’t think it is unethical for a leftist media group to not promote information about Trump because it goes against their mission. Further, there are times where information broadcasted by terrorist organizations is negative–as in giving light to these organizations give light to their mission. Not to mention, it is ethical to protect children viewers from violent online content. In addition, there many be instances to remove discriminatory, provocative, and hateful content to certain users, ie. children. However, I think the more important concern is how the government intervenes with online hateful content. 

I certainly am concerned with online censorship, mainly with uneducated online users. While I understand some censorship is necessary to remove hateful and harmful content, most uneducated users take what they see for the truth. For example, an uneducated user living in China likely accepts the censored content without questioning its truth. This sounds very similar to brainwashing. In the United States, we I think we have the other side of the extreme, almost no censorship. Here, I am open to consider effective types of censorship, mainly content related to terrorism and mis-information. Especially in light of political elections, there needs to be a raised awareness for misinformation online. There are two routes to go down in preventing misinformation. First, you completely remove mis-information and censor online sites like Facebook. Second, and more feasible, would be an online mark that would warn user the content likely was mis-informed.



Writing 06: Government and Companies

Given that corporations are largely considered to be people, they should certainly be held accountable for their decisions. Further, they should be responsible for immoral or unethical consequences of their products. If we compare corporations to people, we must understand that every person has the right to do whatever they want. While we want all people to be moral and ethical, we don’t require this behavior unless it violates the law. Similarly, though we want corporations to be perfect moral entities, sometimes business decisions may be considered immoral and unethical yet legal. While persons and corporations are free agents, they must be held responsible for missteps and mistakes. I think the “moral and ethical limits to how ruthless” a corporation can be is determined by the law. Further, the law defines what is right and wrong for a company. The debate over if companies are “right” or “ethical” is and has been determined by the constraints of the law. 

One of the fundamental challenges of growing tech giants is the inability for law makers to catch up to them. What I mean by this is that tech grows so rapidly at a pace that is difficult for the common man to understand. Therefore, it is hard to evaluate whether these companies are right in their actions or how far they overstep in regards to privacy and personal security. There need to be fast acting lawyers who understand the technical side of these companies while also understanding the relation of the companies under the law. In 50 years, it will be evident that currently companies are too large, too powerful, or too invasive. Our challenge at the moment is finding talented individuals who can understand the constraints that need to be placed now. I am not close to an expert on the law of corporations or government interaction with large companies. I understand the danger of monopolies, not only for the sake of power but of competition in the economy. Personally, I care much more about a company, say Amazon, make great strides in promoting positive good such as delivering affordable health care than I care about them becoming “too large.” If a company is helping the common good, creating jobs, and acting morally, I don’t see the need of breaking it apart. I do, however, believe in a large digital tax on giants in the tech sphere. Humans are taxed and corporations should be too. The US government definitely needs to make greater efforts in regulating tech giants in two main efforts: taxation and privacy. We are strides behind the European Union regarding regulating tech giants in regards to privacy. The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) regulates companies in efforts to protect user privacy. The US needs to have a blanket approach such as this to regulate and protect US citizens. Further, given that the majority of tech companies find a home in the US, we need to apply a digital tax for their services. Again, many European countries have already applied digital taxes–the US needs to follow.