Artificial intelligence and the environment

The NYTimes today has an article on the future of war fought with artificial intelligence, “a 21st-century fighting force of automated tanks, helicopters and planes, remote missile launchers and even troops of robot soldiers – all coordinated by a self-configuring network of satellites, sensors and supercomputers.”

This is little different from the myriad computer models and satellite photos with which we make life-and-death decisions about the environment. Protect this habitat here. Put that dam in there. The NYTimes article reminds us of the conundrum inherent in leaving everything to the computer:

The whole point of automation is to rise above human fallibility – knee-jerk decisions, misunderstood orders, cowardly retreats. Machines are faster, more focused, impermeable to propaganda and, at least for now, they don’t talk back.

As the thinking machinery continues to evolve, the strategists will keep asking themselves the same question: Is there still a good reason to trust ourselves or should we defer to a computer’s calculations?

In other words, is it better to model the environment or better to walk in the woods? Base judgements on our spiritual connections to nature or let the computer determine the optimal solution? If nature is socially constructed, that is an individual’s mental vision built up of past experiences, biases and culture, then whom/what should we believe? Would a computer be less biased?

One Response to “Artificial intelligence and the environment”

  1. Ira says:

    We should watch the 80s film War Games in class! It’s a classic about a kid who manages to hack
    into the Defence Department’s war computers and sets off a crisis. This also reminds me
    of Dr. Strangelove, another film where technology is (at least partly) to blame for a major
    global crisis. Kind of scaryt to think about the wars of the future… saw a stat in health
    geography class recently that said war will be in the top 3 causes of death within 20 years.