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Who will coach ELIZA? Coaching and the potential for ethical, human centred A.I. - just a thought...

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

Happy new year to anyone who might read this blog. I have been thinking about the future of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and the gloom and doom merchants that talk about its potential to destroy humanity. Well, I'm more optimistic than that and I'd like to introduce the idea that a Human Coach for an A.I. mind could be a possibility. Just a bit of fun thinking really, please read on....


In science fiction, there is lots written about artificial intelligence, and there are two book series that particularly interested me. The first is the invention of Greg Bear who wrote a book called Moving Mars. In this book, humanity has colonised Mars and they use artificial intelligence in for form of Thinkers.


According to Wikipedia "Thinkers are artificial intelligences given human traits that allow them to have conversations with people. The most advanced are Quantum Logic Thinkers, or QL Thinkers, which are hugely intelligent. Thinkers are used in many disciplines, although almost all Thinkers are manufactured on Earth, giving Earth leverage over Mars".


Thinkers are machines and the story basically goes that someone connects their own mind with one of the thinkers but it goes wrong as the device starts to assert its power to get the human to use every aspect of their connection even for destructive purposes. Now whether you think this is a human trait or not, it's not one I'd like to be part of my future.


The second kind of AI that left its mark on me are the Minds which form part of the Culture Universe written into so many books by Ian. M. Banks. Again, according to Wikipedia they describe the Minds thus:


"Minds: sapient (i.e. having wisdom), hyperintelligent machines originally built by biological species, which have evolved, redesigned themselves, and become many times more intelligent than their original creators."...


"In the Culture Universe, Minds have become an indispensable part of the prevailing society, enabling much of its post-scarcity amenities by planning and automating societal functions, and by handling day-to-day administration with mere fractions of their mental power."...


"The main difference between Minds and other extremely powerful artificial intelligences in fiction is that they are highly humanistic and benevolent. They are so both by design, and by their shared culture. They are often even rather eccentric. Yet, by and large, they show no wish to supplant or dominate their erstwhile creators."


Now if we are on the road to a future where hyper-intelligent artificial minds or thinkers become part of our world then how can we engage with them and their creators to ensure that they are more like the benevolent, all freeing Minds rather than the potential dangers of Thinkers?", the latter having traits of humans but the behaviours of machines.


Do the creators of these machines even have a sense of what they are really creating? Are the creators what some might call "People People", with empathy and love for fellow humans, in fact, all life? Do they have high levels of Cultural and Emotional intelligence as well as the raw intelligence of what we might consider to be machine thinking?


How can any machine mind be designed and created to love and care for humanity if the creators do not have any of these traits? Now I recognise that this Blog is a massive oversimplification but I felt I wanted to write about it. When I studied for my undergraduate degree in 1992/3 the artificial intelligence world was aware of ELIZA the bot created to be a therapist (well sort of).


Wikipedia states that "ELIZA is an early natural language processing computer program created from 1964 to 1966[1] at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory by Joseph Weizenbaum. Created to demonstrate the superficiality of communication between humans and machines, ELIZA simulated conversation by using a "pattern matching" and substitution methodology that gave users an illusion of understanding on the part of the program, but had no built in framework for contextualizing events."


Things have moved on a lot, to the extent that we have Google, Alexa, Siri and such the like, but the really interesting thing about ELIZA is the some of the people that used it thought that it was a real human being who was answering them. In other words, they attributed a living, breathing, human kind of meaningfulness to a machine which was in fact of their own making - scary right?


Now imagine if you as a highly empathic and experienced Coach had a conversation with ELIZA - do you think you would know if the responses were from a machine? Wouldn't it be good to have an ethical A.I. Coaching programme that enabled the new MINDS to really understand what it is to be the best of humanity so that in part they adopt a positive and progressive moral compass and then determine outcomes that are personalised and not generalised (as happens in Asimov's "I, Robot" when all humans were "cared for" by a Robot for their own good so as not to breach the Three Laws because the logic of the advanced AI in the story perceived that all but incarceration was the only way to achieve the goal).


First Law - A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.


Second Law - A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.


Third Law - A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.


No human with a love for life and a goal of growth and enrichment of the life of others and themselves would have come to the same conclusion. Now, as I said at the start of this Blog, the idea is here as a bit of fun. Coaching may not be the answer, but then again there might be something in it?


If you would like to experience what a Mind might be like, check out the BBC 4 Radio play The State of the Art by Ian. M. Banks. It's a brilliant story and might ignite your interest in how we bring about a post-scarcity, utopian future where everyone thrives.


As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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