The genius – and madness – of advanced AI

| October 13, 2019

AI has taken another leap forward – or backwards – with multi-agent artificial intelligence (MAAI).

This tech allows predictions to be made with extraordinary accuracy by testing them in highly detailed simulations that amount to entire artificial societies.

If, for example, a campaign team wants to decide how and to whom to pitch their messages – how to fight an election – it can do so, multiple times, inside a computer simulation.

Most of us have heard of – and played – SIM City. The advanced technology of MAAI allows much greater freedom coupled with the ability to accurately determine the possible outcome of a decision made regarding a large city.

In the near future it is claimed that entire countries can be planned in this way.

In 2014, for example, an Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa. As cases mounted, the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency asked computer modellers to predict how the epidemic would progress.

Over seven months, they built an agent-based model that used real-world data on case numbers, infection rates, healthcare systems, population distribution, demographics, economic and social interactions, travel patterns and even cultural behaviour such as funeral rites.

It predicted that, left unchecked, the virus would infect 1.4 million people.
It was also used to test interventions to halt the spread.

Medical teams were sent where the model said they would be most effective and people in affected areas were advised to adopt quarantine measures and safe burial practices.

In the end, infections were restricted to 28,000 people. We can’t know for sure that the model worked, that the interventions led to a lower number than it predicted, but this case is frequently cited as a successful use of agent-based modelling.

MAAI allows people to perform radical social experiments. Want to know what will happen if 20,000 Syrian refugees arrive in a city in western Europe? Build an artificial society and watch.

Want to know how to make the integration of those immigrants peaceful? Build an artificial society, try things out and see what works.

This all sounds great – test before you act! Our fearless leaders know this and it appears that they are using MAAI in their campaigns – First, Donald Trump and now our own ScoMo.

As is often the case, the positives carry with them negatives. What would it take to make people believe that the opposition are a bunch of idiots or liars? Not much, it seems. Cambridge Analytica showed that.

Both major parties in the May elections used data in a way that made a lot of people believe untruths, “mis-speaks” or actual lies.

There is a saying that if you give the military a weapon it will find a reason to pull the trigger. The same applies with politicians.

MAAI is there and available. It’s a pity most people are unable to protect themselves from its influence. Even if we asked our leaders to pass legislation about its use can we be sure that there would not be a ‘back door’ in the legislation?

I doubt it.