The good the bad and the ugly
A very important part of the recent development of AI technology is the “creator” class of AI. Typically rooted in an algorithmic technology known as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) and related algorithms, these AIs can learn patterns from existing data and use those patterns to not make predictions, but to create new artifacts. .
Why does this class of AI deserve a special mention? Within the broader realm of AI ethics, there are many aspects of AI technology that humans struggle with ethically. When people think of AI ethics, the first thought that comes to mind is bias, driven by the (valid) concern that AIs can learn from historical patterns that we’d rather not repeat, and then perpetuate these prejudices. Other ethical considerations include the environmental cost of AI computation, the risks of an AI arms race, etc.
So why are creator AIs so special? I would say they present all of the ethical risks considered above, and a few others. Creative AIs are entering a space that we normally think of as reserved for humans – innovation. This particular type of AI forces us to consider other thorny questions: can AIs be patented?, where will AI creations stop? How would we control them? Should we?
To help illustrate the unique problems and opportunities created by creator AIs, I list three already present results of this technology. I call them the good, the bad and the ugly of the AI creator.
Creative AIs are already creating positive vibes in everything from music to medicine. In art, AIs have been able to create beautiful works of art, sometimes inspired by other art and sometimes just from textual description. AIs have also generated textual creations ranging from poetry to literature – with varying degrees of quality. Medicine is perhaps the field where AI-generated content can have the most profound impact – creating synthetic data that can help train disease detectors without worrying about patient privacy. This particular application of creative AIs can make the adoption of other AI technologies in medicine easier and safer. Creative AIs can also create new drugs, opening space for the discovery of solutions that can extend the capabilities of human experts.
The same technologies that can create realistic synthetic medical data can create other realistic human data, but this time for nefarious purposes. DeepFakes, for example, Face-Swaps, can create realistic-looking fake “evidence” that can be used to misinform, blackmail, or otherwise harm individuals, businesses, and even governments. There is currently a technology race between the technology that creates these artifacts and the technology that can detect them.
The ugly one
What can be worse than misinformation, you ask? Creative AIs that excel at creating solutions to human-defined problems won’t just create new drugs. They can also create new weapons. A recent article showed how an AI can create new biological weapons in a fairly short period of time. From the article – the researchers demonstrated ” in just six hours of operation, their model produced over 40,000 potentially deadly molecules, some of which are closely related to the nerve agent VX”.
As we reflect on the ethics of AI, we may need to pay special attention to creator AIs. In the future, our best solutions and our worst problems may come from this same place.