The United States is a pretty divided country; which may just feel like an inevitable product of our times. But it turns out there’s one partisan tool, in particular, that bears at least some of the blame. It’s something that is used behind closed doors, and that, thanks to the power of software and data, has turned into an ever more powerful partisan weapon. One that has now gone so far that some are saying it’s subverting democracy. And without any intervention, there’s no reason to think the situation will change for the better. Has our democracy crossed a line? And if it has, what is to be done?
There’s an epic struggle under way: a challenge to lead the world in A.I. — artificial intelligence. But this space race for the 21st century doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention from at least one of the world’s superpowers — the United States. Futurist Amy Webb tells the story of the world’s leading artificial intelligence companies, and the struggle between East and West in her new book, The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans & Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity. We learn about China’s growing dominance in A.I., and how U.S. companies, in spite of stunning technological innovation, might someday fall behind. What’s at stake is nothing less than the future of power, governance, and freedom.
When we think of killer robots, images of the Terminator, Robocop, and other dystopian movies often spring to mind. These movies usually don’t end well (for the humans, at least). So it seems crazy that we would even consider building machines programmed to kill. On the other hand, some argue that autonomous weapons could save lives on the battlefield. We are not yet living in a world killer robots; but we might be getting close. What goes into the decision to kill? How can we possibly program robots to make the right decisions, given the moral stakes?
Facing down yet another crisis, the U.S. census adopted a brand new kind of technology — and in doing so, brought forth a machine that would change the world.
At the birth of the United States, the new nation faced a problem. How do you make a crazy new idea — power coming not from a king, but from the people — a reality? There was no handbook; the framers of the Constitution had to just kind of make it up. They landed on the idea of a census. You count the people in each state, and apportion power thusly. A great idea, and certainly a totally new one. But also one that, over the centuries, led to a multitude of unforeseen crises. It turned out that, to keep representative democracy on the rails required some technical innovations — and led to the invention of a magnificent, and very significant, machine.