My Friendship with AI - A Reflection Piece on my Time at C Minds

Author: Analisa Ruiz

This is my final blog post at C Minds, and I’m taking this space to reflect on what I’ve learned throughout my 6 months internship. For context, I did not know that much about Artificial Intelligence (AI) before 6 months ago. My primary sources of information on this subject were from the Iron Man movies, and in terms of ethics and privacy, I figured I could just consult the FBI agent in my phone listening to all my conversations.

But that was then, and this is now. After learning about C Minds’ work I was truly inspired to learn more about tech for impact, and my interest has only grown since joining the team. After hours of research, presentations, reports and pilot projects, I feel comfortable describing myself as somewhat proficient in the subject. Ok maybe not proficient, but I have learned a thing or two, and in the next 500 or so words you might as well.

Let’s get one thing straight: Artificial Intelligence ≠ robots. Allow me to explain: Artificial Intelligence is an algorithm (like an equation with missing parts) that accepts inputs (to fill those aforementioned missing parts), and then based on these inputs, provides an outcome, which can be used to gain more clarity on a certain subject or in some cases can help humans make decisions. What’s particularly interesting about AI is that it can improve over time and learn from its past calculations. This ability to learn and self-correct is what makes it “intelligent.” (If you are relatively unfamiliar with AI, have a look at a more detailed description here.)

Now that we have that clear, I’m going to dive a little deeper into AI and its implications. Just like humans, AI thrives on data. The more information it has the better it can make decisions. With data, AI can detect patterns and predict an outcome or decide what is the most favorable decision depending on the goal. Unlike humans, it does not take into account emotions or ethics (yet). This has caused a lot of discussion on the role of AI in our society, and rightfully so. For example, why does it bother me that Facebook has our information? Facebook feeds data about its users to its algorithms, which subsequently produce ads and content relevant to each user’s preferences. There are plenty of people in my life who know my birthday, where I live, my opinions, etc. and base their interactions with me on this information. But when Facebook uses this information to personalize the content I see, that is problematic for me. Why?

Well for one thing, I don’t like being broken down by equations. I pride myself on my individuality and independence, so it’s almost like a personal offense that companies are able to predict my tastes and find patterns in my behavior. It also is problematic for me because of the consequences it implies. If our behavior can be predicted, to what extent can we be controlled? There already exists examples of people around the world using AI to take advantage of the copious amounts of data we produce and manipulate our decisions (see Facebook - Cambridge Analytica Scandal) or to categorize and exclude certain groups (see