In previous articles, we have discussed that many companies are scrambling to add as much intellectual property to their holdings as possible, due to the huge payouts in value that IP can yield. All of this is for good reason, since beyond just having lots of potential for profitability, acquiring intellectual property can also give a company exclusivity to certain innovations for a period of time, which can also crush its competitors’ chances of making a move in their industry. One of the best kept secrets of any company’s intellectual property is its algorithms and artificial intelligence, or A.I.
While we tend to think of A.I. as being some sort of ultra-intelligence program that we ought to fear since it may one day overthrow us, the reality of A.I. in today’s world is much more fundamental than all that. You see, A.I. exists nearly everywhere we go online in order to assist us in finding what we are looking for. Think of Youtube or Google as a prime example: you start typing something in the search bar and already there are several suggestions for you. Granted, this is a very baseline example, but it does serve to show how algorithmic A.I. can get increasingly familiar with you, your interests, and the likelihood that you would be looking for any given thing.
The beauty of these algorithms is that they are constantly there in the background, tracking and learning from what you do online. They document what you click on, what you wish to search, when you tend to go online, and how often you need help with certain tasks. This all means that quite rapidly, the A.I. gets very good at predicting what you would be interested in seeing. Effectively, all of your online presence leads to a curated, ever-specialized experience that these smart, dynamic algorithms continue to fine tune according to what you would most likely be interested in. Of course, this extends far beyond just Google or Youtube. Use Netflix or Hulu? Guess what, after a couple of days of use, you won’t even need to be searching for stuff you like to watch anymore because the A.I. algorithms will bring it all front and center in your home page. Stay in touch with friends on Instagram or Facebook? Pretty soon, you will get notifications that you may want to follow certain people you didn’t even have contact with, but that you knew from years ago. Listen to music on Spotify or Apple Music? After a week or so, you’ll have individualized playlists and jams sent right to you, much like a custom mixtape.
These types of dynamic A.I. algorithms really do come into their own because we use so many services that take advantage of their adaptive and learning potential. In other words, it’s precisely because we use so many digital services that have these A.I. algorithms, that our online experience as a whole becomes so much smoother and personalized. The underlying irony is that even the most brilliant coders and creators at these huge tech firms have virtually no idea how their A.I. gets to understand your interests and tastes. This is because rather than coding for the A.I. to understand individual concepts or ideas, they instead opt to code for A.I. to teach other A.I. As a result, we are fast approaching a time when we as humans don’t even know how we created artificial intelligence that is as smart and adaptive as it is.
After reading all that, you may be feeling a little uneasy, a bit unnerved at the prospect that we live in a time where A.I. can do so much for us, and yet we don’t even fully understand how it can learn so much, so fast. Well, you would be smart to feel uneasy, though fortunately a full A.I. takeover is probably still far from imminent. Rather, what we are more immediately concerned with, is how all of this artificial intelligence usage jives with our laws and daily lives. It is fascinating seeing all the innovation that comes from A.I., along with the convenience it brings, but does leave a lot of questions that will have to be answered since few legal precedents are available for this area of law.
Some questions to think about would be: what happens when an algorithm suggests you watch a video that was uploaded on Youtube that features graphic or illegal content? Who is to blame when the algorithm that your Tesla was relying on to drive itself fails to notice a nearby driver? What happens when Facebook has another data scandal but this time, its algorithms get tampered with? What if these algorithms skew the content we see, which can have major impacts during key moments like elections? Questions such as these are all ones that we are going to have to answer as we develop more and more and as our reliance on artificial intelligence grows. It can seem daunting to think of how the law applies to exciting developments in technology yet it’s exactly the law that will lay down precedents which future generations will have to navigate even as we grow in number and in digital presence. So, since we will have to consider at least some of these questions anyway, why not start thinking about them now? As they say, there is no time like the present.