A.I. vs Society: Round 1
By J. Tamhane

While the tech evangelists are busy pushing Artificial Intelligence into every scenario that we can think of, the other competitor has not even arrived in the boxing ring. The crowd is cheering the lone boxer raising the gloves. A.I. feels like an invincible super-human that can take on any opponent. Little does A.I. know that it is just a new kid on the block. Its opponent has been there since the start of civilisation.

Society is sitting in the waiting room composing itself. It has seen a lot of fights, been bruised and battered in some and been victorious in some others. However, there is no sign of arrogance. There is a mature realisation that every fight has many rounds and there will be many more fights for a long time to come. Society gets up, looks at itself in the mirror, takes a deep breath and leaves the waiting room. In the long walk to the ring, society is neither disturbed by the A.I. evangelists neither is it emboldened by the anti-techies. It is focused, humble and aware.

The gloves touch and the fight begins. A.I. starts throwing the first punches. “I can do forecasting better”, “I can drive a car on my own”, “I can solve world hunger”. As society is just gently moving out of the way of these punches, it has a rare smile. It is remined of a fight not too long ago with another young opponent called “Dot Net”. Now, Dot was not just trying to be in every part of life, it was expecting to take over the lives of everyone. It also came out throwing punches. “People will stop going to physical stores”, “People will not need to travel to work” and “People will never need to sit next to someone to have a face-to-face conversation”. Society was a bit worried back then. Through several rounds that followed, Society threw back a handful of punches of its own. Dot was exhausted. It had lost most of its teeth. People never stopped going to physical stores, peak hours were still there with people needing to be at work and people were still having face-to-face conversations, especially at events and conferences about A.I., which was an irony in more ways than one.

By this time, the sentiment of the crowd had starting shifting. The odds of an A.I. win had worsened and the betting bookmakers were glancing at their bottles of champagne. There was an eerie silence that simultaneously felt like the calm before the storm and the storm before the calm. And then, the bell rang. A.I. and Society went back to their corners. Round 1 had just come to an end.
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