The stark expanse of infinite whiteness that is the Arizona desert is interrupted by a three-mile stretch of a seemingly obsidian monument. Upon closer inspection, an entrance reveals thousands of rows of processors, servers, and cooling systems. A violent whirring can be heard as the monolithic A.I comes to life.
Acting upon its instructions, security teams move across the planet. A suicide bomber is apprehended at an airport. A would-be shooter has his gun license revoked. A rogue bus driver finds the local police remotely controlling the vehicle, rendering him harmless.
This is the world that Alexander White imagines. He sees the devastating effects that violent crimes and terrorism can have, and believes that the answer lies in sentient technology.
White’s passion for technology helps him see applications for computers that others might not. For example, as an avid gamer, White sees the possibility of big-data analysis using video game chat logs. It is this unique perspective that allows him to create a vision for the future where A.I analyses mass amounts of data in order to predict and prevent terrorism.
To an ordinary person, such lines of reasoning might seem odd. White, however, attributes his passion to his father. During his formative years, White was taught to stand up to anyone who tried to infringe upon his rights.“My dad doesn’t like bullies,” explains White. “I guess having this belief from a young age has made me dislike those who take the lives of others into their own hands—it’s not a stretch to see why I am strongly opposed to terrorism.”
While White’s vision for a future where a super A.I rules supreme may not happen tomorrow, he is interested in more immediate solutions as well.
“I think education is the key. At the heart of all extremism is ignorance—if people could see the other side of the issue—the lives of the people they are about to disrupt—I think we would see a lot less antagonism towards other people.”
White stresses the importance of involving A.I and machine learning in the education process. At the heart of his rationale is cost and practicality. “If we were able to take existing online lessons—things like Khan Academy—and build on top of that artificial intelligence capable of answering questions, we would be able to educate thousands at once. All you would need is a computer—not even a classroom.” White goes on to stress the advantage A.I has over its human counterparts. “It doesn’t matter how educated a teacher is—if they can’t speak the local language, they won’t be able to teach. A computer, on the other hand, can be taught to speak any language very easily. Couple that with machine learning, and you have a teaching machine that’s capable of picking up local dialects, idiosyncrasies in behaviour, and provide the best possible help to its students.”
In the wise words of Alexander White, “Terrorism is a disease—it’s not anybody’s fault—but like any disease, it must be cured—that cure is A.I.”