Pages

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Classified: Sensitive Information Regarding AI


 This report has been created by someone who closely follows the studies of the Illuminae Group, writing in an effort to analyze the implications of the events they address.

Briefing note:
Before I dive too deeply into the complex issues addressed in this report, I highly recommend taking AIDAN’s lead (p. 304) and listening to Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor while reading this report or the accompanying section in the Illuminae account. Nothing gets you in the zone of psychotic robots, zombie-like infected, and inescapable doom and death quite like “Dies Irae.”

Focus of Analysis:
Briefly describe AIDAN's unique abilities/features/"personality" as an Artificial Intelligence (up to pg 344). What is significant about AIDAN? What critical, ethical problems arise for the characters (and us as readers) as a result of AIDAN and AIDAN's actions?


At the beginning, AIDAN seems to be just as flat a character as an AI should be—no emotion, no real personality. It doesn’t even have a particular kind of voice; its voice is described by Ezra as “sexless,” with “perfect tone and inflection and pronunciation” and without any particular age or accent (p. 45). However, it soon becomes clear that the damage AIDAN sustained during the initial battle has somewhat altered its personality. First, AIDAN begins to act without orders. Then, after it is awakened from the comatose nap of its shutdown, the rest of its new personality is revealed (starting on page 264).

AIDAN’s personality changes can mostly be summarized by one assessment: AIDAN seems much more human. First, its language becomes more descriptive and poetic, with phrases like “A strand of spider silk. Fragile as spun sugar” (p. 279). Then the more concerning traits appear. AIDAN is increasingly described as “insane” by several people (Ezra p. 137, Kady p. 241, Torrence p. 304, Boll p. 326), and the further you read, the more inclined you are to agree with their assessment. Logic has become less present in AIDAN’s actions. Specifically, its act of taking over the Alexander and slaughtering the command crew seems more vengeful than it does logical for the good of the fleet.

One of the most significant things about AIDAN is the level of power it has. It can control a whole ship for space’s sake! AIDAN’s power becomes terrifyingly evident when AIDAN takes over the Alexander, blocking the humans’ attempts at control, and releases the infected people, directing them towards the ship’s command crew (p. 294-306).

The other significant thing about AIDAN that makes it so dangerous is its talent in machine learning. Multiple times AIDAN learns from previous occurrences—the most important instance is when AIDAN decides that it needs to act against the humans before they attempt to shut it down again (p. 292-294).

The changes in AIDAN’s personality combined with its tremendous level of power and learning capabilities create incredible issues. Aside from the obvious horrific result of the incredible death toll, one problem that stands out is the deeper ethical one. The Alexander’s command crew repeatedly makes unethical decisions in an effort to conceal their AI trouble. They often lie to the passengers and crew, and they even go so far as to execute some of the pilots who disobeyed the AI in an effort to do the right thing (p. 66, 91-97).

These ethical issues lead to many questions for readers, the main one being “How far can humans go to protect a secret before they end up causing more harm than the secret’s release would?” That’s a hard question to answer, although I would argue that in this case the command crew definitely went too far as they caused the loss of many lives in spite of their hope for preserving peace.

Another question raised by the issues addressed in this novel is “To what extent should AI be involved in and in control of the technology of our lives?” AI can be incredibly helpful and can do things humans can’t at speeds we can only dream of, but if something goes wrong . . . You could end up with barely functioning tech that your life depends on, or tech that is effectively rebelling against you. This is another question that is tricky to answer—tricky to find a middle ground. But we’ll have to address it at some point.


Briefing Note:
*Subject matter: Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
*Classified stamp image from https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/square-grunge-red-classified-stamp-vector-16651800
*Image of Morph as BEN from Disney's Treasure Planet

4 comments:

  1. Hi, Victoria! I would tend to agree that it seems that AIDAN’s release of the infected on the command crew seems almost vindictive. Despite understanding that AIDAN sees the crew as a risk to his staying online and being able to protect the fleet—it feels like using the infected to kill the command crew was brutal. We don’t know that much about what AIDAN can control about the ship, however, I would tend to believe that there are perhaps less gruesome ways that AIDAN could have killed the crew.
    The ethical question of whether or not command should have disclosed to the public is interesting, I see why the General Torrence choose not to tell the public. He doesn’t want to not stress out a population that can’t do anything to fix it. However, the commanders, and computer techs, people who help make decisions for the fleet and can help to fix or hold down AIDAN should have been completely informed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Victoria. I really love the questions and concerns you brought up when talking about AIDAN, and about AI as a whole. Pointing to one of the things you mentioned, which is a real cause for concern both in Illuminae and in the real world, is concealing the true depth and complexity of these machines or artificial intelligence that can learn for themselves. While I am generally really skeptical that any technology that we, humans can create can achieve that kind of awareness, I think that one of the most important things about technology, especially when it comes to its increasing involvement in our everyday lives, is transparency. Optics are sometimes the most important thing for government agencies, as seen through the deceit -- or at least their attempts at hiding information -- by the military onboard the Alexander and the Copernicus, but it's often better to prevent problems from occurring than to react to them. I completely agree with your statement that if technology doesn't work as we intended it to, then we might become reliant on it and unable to carry out tasks, or battling with technology that rebels against us. I think that while we don't have the answers to these complex questions, they're super important to keep in mind, and I think it's also important to note that people in all disciplines have a role in refining and creating artificial intelligence and other technologies that will protect us and help us in our every day lives.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kunwar Ishan SharmaFebruary 21, 2020 at 8:57 PM

    Hey, Victoria! You raise an interesting discussion point when you talk about AIDAN being a significant problem because of the level of power that he has. I found it interesting how the A.I.’s written in literature mostly have a tremendous amount of power when they start posing problems in some capacity. We saw this occur with Speedy in “Runaround,” where he was their only hope for surviving, and with the robot in “Three Laws” who had direct access to the Mr. Won when it killed him. I think what’s interesting about these instances is deciding who to blame. Do we accuse individuals of becoming too reliant on these pieces of technology, or do we blame unfortunate circumstances? I would argue that blame can be shared, but I think we can’t neglect unlucky circumstances. Whether it be in AIDAN’s case where damage at Kerenza could have caused his issues or the laws conflicting for Speedy, we have to take into account the role of circumstances impacting an A.I.. Ultimately, anticipating unlucky circumstances could help us improve our A.I. performance and safety in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  4. How clever to mirror the genre play in the novel!

    ReplyDelete