This article is the first in a series exploring the technology and ethics behind Artificial Intelligence (AI) on Yale’s campus and beyond.
Donald Trump’s victory in this past week’s election came as a surprise to everybody who had been following the race for the past 10 months. That is, almost everybody — Sanjiv Rai accurately predicted the results of the election using a new kind of forecast tool: artificial intelligence.
Rai, founder of Genic.ai, a startup based in India, predicted Trump’s surprising victory using MogIA, an artificial intelligence (AI) system he developed in 2004. While the exact science behind the system is kept secret, it works by analyzing data from popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This analysis includes 20 million data points ranging from social media posts, search engine inquiries, and message board comments that relate to the candidates. The system then processes this data, evaluates the level of public engagement with regard to each candidate, and makes a prediction about the outcome of the election.
Nick Beauchamp, a member of a different AI project that analyzes Tweets, said about his own system, “These results provide not just a tool for generating survey-like data, but also a method for investigating how what people say and think reflects, and perhaps even affects, their vote intentions.”
The MogIA system has the unique ability to distinguish between positive and negative public engagement. In regards to the election, public engagement entails online posts that mention the candidates. Rai said, “In the primaries, there were immense amounts of negative conversations that happened with regards to Trump. However, when these conversations started picking up pace, in the final days, it meant a huge game opening for Trump and he won the primaries with a good margin.”
Additionally, MogIA has the capacity to learn by itself without constant action by its developers. Rai said, “While most algorithms suffer from programmers’/developers’ biases, MogIA aims at learning from her environment, developing her own rules at the policy layer and developing expert systems without discarding any data.” This is a clear distinction from conventional computer systems, which require constant updates in order to develop.
MogIA is only one manifestation of the growing artificial intelligence industry, which has been successful in predicting the results of contests beyond politics, like the Kentucky Derby and the stock market. The success of these systems raises ethical concerns involving their misuse in order to profit on the predictable outcomes of competitions.
The ethical argument against the development of artificial intelligence systems is similar to the argument against performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the professional sports world. The basic idea is that it creates an insurmountable gap between those who use and those who do not use; that is, those who have access to artificial intelligence (or PEDs) have an extreme advantage over those who rely on more conventional means to make predictions. This applies to competitions that have the capacity to make profit for those who accurately predict the outcomes, as in most sporting events. It creates inherent inequality that promotes further economic inequality.
Zach Glass, a freshman in Berkeley College at Yale, supported this ethical stance when he said, “I think the argument against artificial intelligence is best seen in the stock market, which would be inherently rigged in favor of those with access to this specific form of technology.”
Will Horvath, another freshman in Berkeley, had a different take on the argument against artificial intelligence. He said, “When everything can be predicted, we lose some of the art and beauty of life. For example, in chess the first few moves are often regimented and identical because they are statistically optimal—would you want that to be the case in more aspects of life?”
Although many are divided about the ethical implications of artificial intelligence, there is no question that it is playing an increasingly important role in modern life. AI systems are being implemented in areas like medicine, sports, and education, with great success. Even Yale has its own artificial intelligence section within the computer science department, which will be the subject of the next article in this series.
Isaac Wendell is a freshman in Berkeley College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Featured Image courtesy of Wikimedia).
Kharpal, Arjun. “Trump Will Win the Election and Is More Popular Than Obama in 2008, AI System Finds.” CNBC. CNBC, 30 Oct. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Nash, Charlie. “Artificial Intelligence MogIA Predicts Fourth Election in Row with Trump Win” Breitbart. Breitbart, 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.