MACHINES AS ADVISORS: HOW FAR WILL IT ALL GO?

Robert Sparrow’s presentation at this year’s IFA+ Summit centres on “How relying upon machines to give us advice might corrode our ability to reason about ends”. We asked him to tell us more.

It’s true that people already nd it difficult to reason about means. No-one can read maps anymore, no-one can do maths anymore, and no-one can spell anymore. The dominant understanding is that it is fine to hand off that kind of thing to machines, because we get to choose our own ends. Increasingly, however, people are asking digital agents broader questions, like “How do I find a boyfriend?” or “What should I do today?”, which appear to be questions about ends. I look at the connection between reasoning about means and reasoning about ends, as well as whether it matters. Does this advice differ from self- help books, for instance? I can pick up a self- help book which tells me how to lead my life better. If I had an app on my phone, would that be any different?

HOW CAN YOU RETAIN YOUR AGENCY AND YOUR HUMANITY WHEN INTERACTING WITH VERY POWERFUL DEVICES THAT MIGHT WELL BE QUITE MORALLY DANGEROUS?

Who should come to your talk?
Anyone interested in what it means to be human in the age of digital assistants. How can you retain your agency and your humanity when interacting with very powerful devices that might well be quite morally dangerous? This is about how these systems are affecting what we think. It’s our autonomy, our agency, our capacity to think for ourselves, that is the most important thing about us, and we are risking that by relying on the advice of machines.


Okay, Google: Lead My Life
Date: Sunday 8 September 2019
Time: 11:00 am – 1:00pm
Location: Hall 26b – GRAND THEATRE

Photo: Robert Sparrow, Professor of Philosophy, Monash University, Melbourne