Blog: Critical Contextualisation — Artificial Intellegance in Prosthetics
Critical Contextualisation of Artificial Intelligence within Prosthetics
Whether the prospect of Artificial Intelligence (AI) provokes a negative reaction from you or not, the truth is, that the future is bright for intellectual machinery and the benefits that it will bring to our society are imeasurable . Companies such as Elon Musk’s ‘Tesla’ or Bill Gates ’ ‘Microsoft’ are already putting their hands up as companies with huge futures in this industry. ‘Microsoft’ have highlighted the issue, that come the year 2050, farmers will need to produce and harvest 60% more crops(1)and ‘Tesla’(2), well known for their commercially sold battery powered and self-parking cars, is a prime example of the progression in technology over recent years. Fully self-functioning AI robotics will be present in all fields in the not so distant future. The question that is at the forefront of this movement is whether we can continue to design and keep control of this technology in a way that will allow our race to continue developing.
Using AI in the work place is something that most companies, especially ones with large production lines, are very interested in to further the accuracy of their products. But there comes an issue with this ideology to the work force that it will replace. With AI replacing most jobs, with exception to professional practices, where do people then find employment. Artificial Intelligence will surpass that of our own (within the workplace) and eventually people’s fears of the machine replacing the human will come true. It is true, the machine can be programmed to create zero errors and if you were the owner of a company, why would you want to take the risk of hiring humans, where factors such as human error, pay rises and sickness can affect the production process. This is the dilemma that our society will face in the not so distant future, having to balance where AI will benefit our lives as opposed to replacing us as the most intelligent species. A balance that will have to be carefully considered. To look at it in a more critical perspective, take for example the food chain. We as humans are at the top of the food chain due to our superior intelligence. It is because of this, that the human race has succeeded so well. If we were to be replaced, would that mean the deterioration of our race? The beginning of the end? We would effectively be creating our own extinction. Although artificial intelligence could bring great benefit to us, with finding solutions for problems we have not yet managed to control, such as global warming and the cure to cancer. However, the power that this intelligence holds would have to be controlled with great caution. Any misuse of this power and our future could take a rapid turn for the worse. There is a certain feeling of paranoia when talking about the capabilities of AI, this is for the best. Our angst towards this could be the saviour in our creations!
The World of Prosthetics
The world of prosthetics has been around for thousands of years. The first prosthetic was discovered in Egypt over 3000 years ago. The 16thcentury saw the invention of the first mechanical limb, designed by a French battlefield surgeon called Ambroise Pare (3) . The bulk of the development in prosthetics came after World War I, due to 41,000 British soldiers (4)alone needing amputations. Due to the stage in history in which the world wars fell, the progression in prosthetics was very slow but this same part in history was vital to the industry as a whole’s progression. Due to the industry solely operating on demand for amputees rather than the wants of anyone, a catastrophic event had to take place in order for the industry to take a leap forward in research and design. If there was less demand, then the progression in research and design would be significantly slower. It’s fair to say the progression of technology and abilities of these prosthetics have developed tenfold over the years but there is still so much room to grow! The range of Artificial Intelligence for prosthetics is very small with regard to its potential at this current time, but with the future of AI developing at the rate that it currently is, it is set to be bright and the possibilities are endless. The current world of prosthetics offers everything from bending, twisting and pointing to grasping and lifting. But the ability to learn and adapt has not been conquered yet. The next step in AI prosthetics is to create limbs or aids that can learn, adapt and solve our problems in ways that we haven’t even considered yet!
The Alexa Arm is comprised of a carbon fibre and magnesium build that offers a light weight feel for the user. An artificial nervous system is built into the arm, making your tactile sensation as good as any natural limb. Alexa voice integration and activation means that synchronising with other smart devices is extremely easy. This, so called ‘Alexa Arm’, is an evolutionary leap forward in the progression of AI within prosthetics. But is this design really a step forward in our evolution? Is it even a product of human evolution at all? The truth is, that machines will never surpass humans as the most intelligent beings on earth. This is due to the belief that the human body’s consciousness, cannot be transferred into the machine. Our ability to adapt our decisions depending on the context of the situation we are in, is non-transferable and, even if possible, should not be attempted. Our ethical decisions come from within us, it comes down to the question that is often asked — are our ethical decisions a product of nature or nurture? Although the arm is intelligent enough to learn and adapt to its surroundings, the fact that the nature of a human’s ethical decisions cannot be adapted and transferred into the machine will be the reason for its failure. This hugely dependant and contributing factor to the arm is its downfall within its own design!
Throughout the short video that was made, there are a few examples of bad ethical decisions made by AI. One in particular stands out, when the user requests for an upgrade of devices and the arm rather than ordering an upgraded version from the internet, chooses to steal from a person sitting by their side. Another example articulated well in the short video is an introduction to people (shaking of hands). Due to etiquette forcing people to shake with the right hand, the user of the prosthetic presents his hand to the stranger to shake hands, but instead of gripping the other’s hand, the arm’s artificial intelligence steps in and presents two fingers in the form of a rude gesture towards the person. Putting this into context on a larger and more important scale, if there were to be a person in a position of power, a president or member of parliament that was representing their country on a global stage, to act in such ways towards other national leaders could cause outrage in a way that would cause national relations to deteriorate. Could the consequences of these actions out way the benefits that it would bring to the users of this prosthetic? The way in which the world perceives social behaviour these days leaves this decision in the balance. The way the public critically analyses everything that people do will be the contributing factor in the success of AI prosthetics!
The question that the video tries to ask its viewers is, do we really need to progress our technology so much? Surely a more preferable solution to these problems would be to try and find links within our bodies to allow our brain to control such objects where no Artificial Intelligence is needed. The success of these inventions is very dependent on whether the designer’s ethical positioning within society is reasonable. If we were to presume the worst, then the power that this technology holds has the ability to start world wars. If we were to presume the best, it could be the saviour for our race, curing diseases such as cancer and providing solutions to famines, droughts and many more. Companies like Microsoft have already started on the path of Artificially harvesting crops for optimum results, so the path is clear but we must keep a focus on it!
The fact is, the future is bright for Artificial Intelligence! and in this respect AI will play a huge part in the development of the human race, not in the biological sense but in the progress of life. With these responsibilities There is a risk that the development of AI could be the reason for the end of our race, as we know it. However, we will reach a point in our existence where this risk will be the only option in order for us to continue our existence on this earth and as history has showed, when the times get tough the human race has prevailed!