Engaging With the Field of AI 2020–2021 as a Social Scientist

Original article was published by Alex Moltzau 莫战 on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


Engaging With the Field of AI 2020–2021 as a Social Scientist

Questions and thoughts about engaging with the field of artificial intelligence over the coming year

Engaging with artificial intelligence as a social scientist, for me at least, I can perhaps too often fall into a role of criticising. I think critiques are important, yet I am unsure about how much that has been helping. I have expressed many times that the technology industry needs to be challenged in how they view sustainability or climate concerns, yet I do not necessarily provide any clear cut answers.

I think that should be fine. Not all answers are clear, and there is nuance and complexity in society.

Troubleshooting cannot be only from a technical perspective.

Social quantified from a technical perspective can be different from discussing purpose broadly.

Even the most complex set of algorithms operate within a strange and beautiful environment, planetary boundaries.

There is talk, and research, of democracy in retreat with increasing tendencies of authoritarianism.

I am not sure this can be blamed on algorithms in social media fully, but perhaps partly — the negligence of…

There, see! It is easy to start criticising.

How would you manage a platform with billions of people, with members who get storage of memories and access for free in exchange for access to themselves to be influenced?

Is changing these large infrastructures as challenging as changing the oil industry?

Yes, there are oil rigs and entire business models built up around products running on or created by gasoline. Plastic, cars, boats, planes and trains. Often cities with veins pumping water, waste and light.

Our beautiful and strange built world.

Facebook with the Athena project wishes to launch a constellation of satellites. Tesla with its Starlink project. Amazon.com with its Kuiper constellation.

On July 30th, the Federal Communications Commission approved Amazon’s plan to launch 3236 satellites into orbit.

Facebook is building a subsea cable around Africa called 2Africa.

Microsoft, Google, Amazon.com, Facebook, IBM and a variety of Chinese companies I cannot name on the top of my head. These are the owners of our global digital infrastructure.

We are only temporarily granted access to watch as the clouds go by.

This is not necessarily negative — management of digital infrastructure by single individuals or small companies may not grant the access that this scale can provide.

With access comes AI. With cheaper devices due to scale or possibilities of processing due to AI accelerators to a greater extent, information changes in how it is perceived and communicated.

There is observation with video and minute changes can be tracked.

Bands of health products ever closer to the body.

A pandemic.

An election.

What will 2021 be like studying artificial intelligence as a social scientist?

I have soon written 500 days about artificial intelligence, yet it seems more like a beginning or a prelude to understanding.