Why AI Isn’t Taking Over

There is a man in these parts who has $30 million in the bank. He takes no salary, but finances his life on disbursements and interest. When he tried to buy a house for his kids, he was told that his lack of income was a problem given the cost of the house!

The bank’s computer programs—its algorithms—wouldn’t allow the purchase. Finally, some humans who worked in the bank put their heads together and determined the guy was a decent risk!

I was told not long ago by my banker that the bank’s computers and procedures, if faced with two credit bureau scores, would always default to the lower. If there were three, they’d choose the middle. “Why not default to the higher?” I asked. “Because we’re programmed to be cynical,” she said with a straight face. And the credit scores themselves are based on Byzantine rules and arcane weighting that brand people with a score which may deny them credit or raise their interest rates for no good reason except the computer says so.

TSA assumes you’re guilty until you prove you’re innocent by removing articles of clothing, accessories, and so on. Now they may deny us computers and tablets on planes. Yet if we qualify for  pre-check, why can’t we be cleared for everything and not even go through any security? Because the default is always cynical.

Artificial intelligence is cynical. It involves no human consideration, only numbers. It provides for no reasonable exceptions, only pass/fail. There are rules but no judgment.

I doubt we can live long in a society controlled by such mechanistic, unfeeling, black and white rules. We’re a society of independent people. clinging to personal automobiles and personal freedoms. (Driverless cars to me are like tasteless food.) Why would we want our individual uniqueness removed in the mindless blender of algorithms and computer analysis?

Global Entry is very useful AI. But it’s the immigration officer who realizes the machine made a mistake or you didn’t press your hand down hard enough and waves you through.  Otherwise, the machine would tell us we can’t go home again.

© Alan Weiss 2017


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