What does a pre-historic statue have in common with Artificial Intelligence? Dr. Gege Gatt, EBO's CEO, explores the link between ancient heritage and cutting-edge technology.
In the heart of the Mediterranean, the historic island of Malta stands as a living testament to millennia of human civilization. Beyond its stunning landscapes and ancient architecture, Malta's heritage has become the backdrop for a thought-provoking discussion on the future of AI, cybersecurity, and the interconnected world. In his TEDx talk, Dr. Gege Gatt, the CEO of EBO, intertwines the past and future in a way that is nothing short of captivating.
AI's Transformation: From Data to Creative Problem-Solver
Dr. Gatt draws intriguing parallels between ancient statues and the modern realm of artificial intelligence (AI). Much like the transformation of ancient statues from lifeless stone into revered, god-like figures, AI also undergoes a captivating evolution. Today, AI starts as raw data and machine learning and, gradually becomes an ingenious problem-solving entity.
Dr. Gatt says, “If you think about it, these statues are ancient Artificial Intelligence, 5000 years old. Why? Because AI follows this same pattern. It starts off as an inorganic element, just like data, machine learning, and power and suddenly it functions like a real organic brain. It gives us answers, it inspires us, it’s creative and in some cases, AI becomes so human that we actually attribute gender and names to it."
The Rapid Pace of Technological Advancement
However, unlike the slow passage of 1,000 years over which neolithic temples were built, AI requires humankind to readjust rapidly.
We can all agree that today’s pace of technological advancement is breathtaking. Google Translate, radiology, and self-driving cars have undergone rapid transformations, fundamentally altering our daily lives. Such exponential progress is redefining the way we live and work.
With this rapid pace of change in mind, it’s important to ensure that progress actually improves well-being and dismantles impediments that prevent human flourishing.
“The smartphone in your pocket today is over a thousand times more powerful than the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon in 1969,” Dr. Gatt pointed out.
Three Key Ideas for Navigating the Future
As we navigate this dynamic landscape, Dr. Gatt proposes three key ideas to guide our way.
1) Bastions and Digital Defense: Protecting Ourselves from Weaponized AI
Drawing inspiration from Malta's historic structures, Dr. Gatt delves into the intriguing parallels between ancient bastions and the challenges of modern cybersecurity in the age of AI. The Maltese bastions once served as a physical defense for the island. Yet, in the digital age, we find ourselves needing different defenses, especially when it comes to the potential weaponization of AI. How do we safeguard ourselves in this new era? Our defenses must evolve to match the rapid advancements in technology. Traditional fortifications cannot protect us from the invisible, digital threats that AI can pose. This challenge prompts us to rethink our security strategies, develop innovative protective measures, and educate ourselves on digital ethics.
Bastions can also provide us with a false sense of security and control, promoting an insular mentality. In the age of full digital connectivity, borders are a paradox. We mus dismantle borders both physical and metaphorical, to embrace a more connected digital world. Dr. Gatt suggests shifting our focus from isolation to embracing dignified digital change. Instead of isolating ourselves, we should focus on what unites us, what makes us part of a broader human community. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and connected society. This resilience can become our defining identity.
2) Coastal Towers and Predictive Tools: Anticipating the Future of Society and building a solid moral foundation
Dr. Gatt moves on to using Malta’s coastal towers as his next metaphor. Such towers dominated Europe’s coastal areas for many centuries. They were a method of raising an alarm and signal from one tower to another, to warn cities of oncoming attacks from the sea.
Much like the coastal towers, AI is positioned to help us anticipate societal needs and challenges, however the right tools must be in place to understand and leverage the power of AI. Dr. Gatt says “In the context of AI, watching from the watch tower is all about psychological profiling. Actually, some AI goes far beyond watching. Its aim is to actually change your attitude, behaviour, and choices. We call this persuasive technology”.
Persuasive technology can predict behaviour and nudge your next action toward a direction: perhaps a purchase, the choice of spouse, or your voting preference. This is a problem because we are separating citizens into two groups, the 99% who are observed, and the the 1% who observe us all. He goes on to say that, “it creates an asymmetry in power and, in turn, political inequality. This is the social stratification of our time. This is why we have a duty to encourage building technology on a solid moral foundation. This is done through education. It informs us of the existence of persuasive technology and allows us to recognise when it is being used to change our patterns. This should start as kids and enable them to understand digital ethics and prepare them for a lifetime of digital interactions”.
3) A Vision for an AI-Centric, Human-Enhancing Future
Dr. Gatt speaks about the need for rethinking economic policies in response to increasing automation and the transformation of jobs by AI. We must shift our focus from job creation to fostering the ability to learn and adapt over time. He states that AI is now the automated labour component, which is not human, does not require a wage, doesn’t advocate for itself, and is available at a marginal cost of almost zero. With the potential to automate up to 45% of existing jobs, we need to re-evaluate how we formulate economic policy, distribute wealth, and shift our understanding of employability. These changes cannot just be a function of politics, but rather a new collective myth, a function of culture.
Dr. Gatt's vision embodies innovation and progress, essential in our interconnected world.
Rather than replacing or suppressing human abilities, AI should be used to augment and enhance them, particularly in areas such as creativity and empathy. The future belongs to those who can shape the power of AI while maintaining a deep respect for the things that make us truly human, truly fragile.
Join us in this transformative journey. Contact EBO today to find out more about how you can leverage the power of AI for your organization.