​Tahoe League for Charity Lunch & Speaker Series



Tahoe League for Charity held its October 14th meeting at Jake’s on the Lake in Tahoe City.  The featured speaker was Richard Holman, dean of computational sciences at the Minerva Schools at KGI, of the Claremont University Consortium, speaking of the consequences of artificial intelligence.

Rich spoke on the subject of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it is currently used in society and in our everyday life. He advised us not to believe everything you read in the alternate-reality world of social media, because it is always biased.  We need to start questioning how AI functions and understand that machines are built by humans.  Doing human oriented things will always have a biased slant. Even the most powerful AI systems are still based on algorithms designed by humans, software written by humans, and datasets curated and customized by humans. 

The collection, analysis, transmission and consumption of data through computers and smartphones has become ubiquitous.  Right now, we are seeing a confluence of robotics and artificial intelligence that seem to be placing threats to a large number of existing jobs.

Many jobs that used to exist have now been taken over by AI.  This is because many entry level manufacturing jobs are now taken over by automation.  Automation has become necessary because manufacturing is facing monumental hurdles: intensified pressures for greater profitability due to global competition; fluctuating demand; regulatory changes; cyber security threats; and aging workforces.  However, humans are the most productive at professions that require them to regularly interact with other humans.  But machines easily supersede them at such things as following patterns and executing routine work.  Middle-skilled workers, such as tax accountants, telemarketers and freight agents, are deemed most likely to be replaced by robots in the next few years.

On a positive side, artificial intelligence is proving to be a game-changer in healthcare. It improves virtually every aspect of the industry from robot-assisted surgeries to safeguarding private records against cyber criminals, to the detection and analysis of tumors in medical diagnosis. The more computational analysis that is needed, the more AI has a potential applicational function.

Rich now advises his students to think through with their choices of choosing a job.  Don’t choose anything that will become obsolete.  He advises them to choose jobs that will add more value than a machine is capable of doing.

As a cautionary note, always question where the data in your personal profile is going.  Who is listening? Who is transmitting data to whom? Machine learning provides the potential for someone to access information from your data by observing your online purchasing preferences for someone somewhere to benefit economically.

Your own biases are also teaching the machine, be it a “Smart TV” in choosing your movie and program preferences, “Alexa or Siri” in narrative recognition, or “Netflix and Pandora” for TV series and music.  These modes of AI utilize all your biases and preferences and are incorporated in your machine learned profile data set.

An AI car, as with the model Tesla, is programmed so that choices can be made that are out of your control.  What systems do you trust with an autonomous vehicle?  Where in that software are the mechanisms coded according to your own personal choices?  Can someone interfere with the computer in your vehicle to reprogram your driving direction?  All this is within the realm of possibilities.  And most importantly what choices are the car manufacturers making that will override your own sense of safety measures?

These are issues worth thinking about.  AI is influencing the way we live and interact.

The nature of truth and the nature of fact and the use of these facts have become very murky.

There is no telling where science will take us next, or what the next step for artificial intelligence will be.

The November lunch and speaker series will feature Mark McLaughlin, award winning author and Tahoe historian.

Meetings are open to the public by reservation only. Contact Nileta Morton for information: morton@jutland.com.  $20 per person.