Reading about artificial intelligence, or A.I., this morning opened a whole new layer of understanding as regards the nature of trust. We truly do trust our machines, for their ability to perform in the same fashion time and time again. But will there come a day when there is an App for the creation of a deadly bacteria which can be planted into someone’s drink without their knowledge? Imagine how deadly the world could become. You wouldn’t need guns in that world, you would need better A.I.
There are plenty of things that A.I. cannot understand. Most of them are qualitative in nature, such as trust or, as regards English furniture, determining how good a surface on a piece is. Superb surfaces are not well understood by new collectors and learning about them is not easy, particularly as museums seem to care more about design, something that ironically a computer can more easily understand. And if there is a pleasure in English furniture it is equally in the qualitative aspects as the quantitative.
Returning to the nature of trust, however, it is extraordinary that we do so blindly believe in our machines. I reference, once again, HAL of “2001, A Space Odyssey” whose betrayal as a machine enforces, albeit forty years ago in a movie, the thrust of the article about A.I that I read this morning. When the machines are smarter and surer than us, why wouldn’t they take over? And is that the truth about evolution, that we are to be replaced by our machines? Clearly, we haven’t really thought through the problem because we haven’t, until recently, considered it to be serious. It just might be.