Artificial Intelligence or artificial stupidity?

Seven speakers took to the TED Global stage in Vancouver on the 13th April 2018. The theme for day was: The Age of Amazement. One of them was our very own journalist and artist, James Bridle. His talk explored our collective insanity — the algorithmically-assembled extremes of the Internet — and our humanity — the values and desires that extremists astutely tap into. Here is what TED said about his talk: 

 Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

How does a sweetly-narrated video of hands unwrapping Kinder eggs garner 30 million views and spawn more than 10 million imitators? Welcome to the weird world of YouTube children’s videos, where an army of content creators use YouTube “to hack the brains of very small children, in return for advertising revenue,” as artist and technology critic James Bridle describes. Marketing ethics aside, this world seems innocuous on the surface but go a few clicks deeper and you’ll find a surreal and sinister landscape of algorithmically-assembled cartoons, nursery rhymes built from keyword combos, and animated characters and human actors being tortured, assaulted and killed. Automated copycats mimic trusted content providers “using the same mechanisms that power Facebook and Google to create ‘fake news’ for kids,” says Bridle. He adds that feeding the situation is the fact “we’re training them from birth to click on the very first link that comes along, regardless of where the source is.” As technology companies ignore these problems in their quest for ad dollars, the rest of us are stuck in a system in which children are sent down auto-playing rabbit holes where they see disturbing videos filled with very real violence and very real trauma — and get traumatized as a result. Algorithms are touted as the fix, but Bridle declares, “Machine learning, as any expert on it will tell you, is what we call software that does stuff we don’t really understand, and I think we have enough of that already,” he says. Instead, “we need to think of technology not as a solution to all our problems but as a guide to what they are.” After his talk, TED Head of Curation Helen Walters has a blunt question for Bridle: “So are we doomed?” His realistic but ungrim answer: “We’ve got a hell of a long way to go, but talking is the beginning of that process.”

James' Bridle new book, NEW DARK AGE,  will be launching on 19th June 2018Pre-order and find out more here.

This article was originally posted by Rebekah Barnett, Tom Carter, Chelsea Catlett, Brian Greene, Lauren McAlpine and Emily McManus on April 13, 2018 on the TED platform. https://blog.ted.com/insanity-humanity-notes-from-session-8-at-ted2018/