sA recent event got me thinking about some benefits of Artificial and Emotional Intelligence that are on the flip-side to the scare-mongering I referred to in earlier posts ( What is AI?, The Dumbest Doomsday Scenario).
Bad Mannered Uber Driver
The event was report in the Sydney Morning Herald (and a myriad of other news outlets). It described an Uber driver using inappropriate language and behaving badly. His two Gay female passengers ( Uber driver harasses two gay female passengers in Melbourne ) complained in the printed and television media. The driver started out “cheery and jovial’ but descended into a bit of a rant and ended up using some offensive language and finally ordering the passengers out of his car.
Lets rewind this scenario with a Driverless Car as the mode of transport. There would be no human driver to engage with either up-beat or down, . Instead of an unwelcome interaction with a person of uncertain disposition, the passengers would have got to their destination without experiencing any fear or concern for their safety. If we for a moment imagine that, in the inner city Melbourne context that this journey took place, a Driverless Car could complete this journey safely (not a big stretch, especially with the next 5 to 10 years), then none of the unpleasantness of this scenario could take place.
People Terrorise People
People are mostly terrorised by other people. Granted this is usually by people they know, and granted further there are very few autonomous machines. The tensions that are evident between people of different cultural, sexual and religious persuasions often lead strangers into unintended conflict. This conflict is often evident in the service industry where, lets be frank, the customer may always be right but sometimes can be a total arse. Conflict arises from a service provider not being in the right frame of mind to look after the every need of their customer. It also arises from the the customer treating the service provider with less respect and dignity than they deserve.
An Artificial Intelligence providing a service is unlikely to be endowed with “feelings” that can be hurt by a careless passenger or customer. As a result it will not be disposed to retaliate in any way. However, to ensure that a passenger or customer gets the best possible experience, some facsimile of the satisfaction of a job well done would be useful in an Artificial Intelligence. The means by which to fully satisfy the needs of a passenger or customer requires some meaningful and subtle social interactions.
Artificial Intelligence Emotions for Motion
This social interaction goes beyond the bounds of the simple communication of a destination by the passenger in the case of a Driverless Car. It could well include other clues to the way they want their journey to transpire. They may want to take a leisurely drive via the scenic route. Avoid the aggravation of start stop driving on the crowded freeway. They may be distracted and stressed and require more gentle prodding for information regard their destination. They may be ill and distressed or otherwise requiring attention to their personal well-being.
When Aggression and Rudeness have no Currency
In a situation where rudeness and aggression create no impact, the behaviour of people will change. Aggressive behaviour towards a Driverless car will get you nowhere (except maybe a trip to the police station). The Artificial Intelligence will be able to act in a way that diffuses aggression and will not be goaded into a conflict through its own emotional response. Conversely, the Artificial Intelligence will not act aggressively towards a passenger in an intentional way to cause distress.
Unfortunately it may arise that a passenger interprets a Driverless Car’s actions as aggressive. It could be that a passenger is late and insists on the Driverless Car speeding to make up time. The refusal of the Driverless Car to break the law and endanger others may well be interpreted as passive aggressive behaviour by the passenger. In their mind they will be late because of the Driverless Car, not because they failed to give themselves sufficient time for the journey. The Artificial Intelligence can engage with a large and diverse body of knowledge from the field of Emotional Intelligence to mollify the passenger and provide them with reasons for its refusal to comply.
Emergencies Managed without Emotion
In the case of an emergency (e.g. the imminent birth of a baby in the vehicle) it would be possible for the Driverless Car to connect with the emergency services who could enable a priority journey for this particular vehicle. This could be achieved by managing the traffic on route to clear the path for the vehicle and get to the destination faster than normal. All without breaking laws or endanger others. In this example the best outcome is achieved for all and the person requiring assistance has not needed to occupy an expensive resource such as an Ambulance.
The potential for Artificial Intelligence to reduce tension and ease conflict in society is significant. To ensure that these vastly powerful capabilities are used for the greater good requires careful planning and regulation . Hording by the super-rich and powerful as another means to further widen the gap between themselves and the average person needs to be vigorously resisted by governments. Open debate, experimentation and wide access to all can help to ensure that the emerging machine intelligences are a force for change to the better.