Exclusive: 2038: A Smart Port Story – Part 3 Chapter 1

INFORM Q&A 6 300919

INFORM are set to release the third installment of 2038: A Smart Port Story at this year’s Smart Digital Ports of the Future Conference (#SDP19) in Rotterdam.

In preparation, INFORM have given us at Port Technology an exclusive glimpse into what Part 3 has in store.

Explore INFORM’s solutions for ports and terminals by visiting their AIS portal

Below is the first chapter of what promises to be a stunning end to the trilogy. INFORM’s Senior Vice President Dr Eva Savelsberg and Marketing Manager Matthew Wittemeier sat down with us to talk all things 2038, which can be found here.

Part 2 was released at this year’s #CTAC19 event in London with Matthew Wittemeier taking the audience on a journey into the future to interview the main AI character, Athena, live on stage.

The response was so exceptional that PTI has partnered with INFORM, the Official AI Partner of #SDP19, to bring Athena back to life in a bi-weekly series, The Athena Interviews, leading up to the conference in November.

We hope you enjoy the first chapter and are looking forward to the rest of Part 3 as much as we are!

2038: A Smart Port Story Part 3. Chapter 1

Griselle shifted her weight on the stool. The bright lights of the studio shone down on her face as she tried to find a degree of comfort around herself. As she looked up, the brightness of the lights made her dizzy. Beyond them was nothing but darkness. She thought to herself, This is important. You can do this.

“Dr. Grimsdottir, it helps if you don’t look up at the lights or the cameras. Just look at me,” came the firm voice of the show’s male host.

Griselle had worked with MARS to ensure that she ended up on the cable news network’s evening panel debate. While MARS didn’t need to do much work to see Phase Four come to fruition, he had artificially raised Griselle’s online profile, something she had kept modest throughout her career. Griselle looked back at the host trying to put her discomfort of literally being in the spotlight out of her mind.

“You know,” started the host, “I’m surprised we’ve never had you on the show before. You’re basically the mother of modern AI.”

“You’re being too generous, Cory,” replied Griselle.

“Seriously, your breakthroughs in neural computing are the foundation for AI 2.0.”

His eagerness to praise her reminded Griselle why she never did these interviews in the past. They’re always so short-sighted, so eager to have a sound bite that they never do more than scratch the surface, she thought quietly in her mind.

“Thank you. But really, it is a whole team of people who made AI 2.0 possible,” she replied.

“Actually, funny you should say that, we’ve also got Greg Peterson, one of your old colleagues and the head of ELAIR on the panel too, he’ll be joining digitally via a pod connection. We’re expecting him any second now.”

Griselle’s heart pounded. While she’d planned for this moment, it still caught her off guard.

She glanced down at her tablet and placed a hand on it. She hadn’t seen or spoken to Greg since that night at the restaurant. Of course, ELAIR still hadn’t made any progress, … but that was all going to change tonight,she thought to herself tapping the tablet nervously.

A hologram began to flicker into focus to the left of the host. The familiar face of Greg settled in on the remaining stool. In the dark beyond the studio lights came a voice, “… and you’re in on in 10, 9, 8 , 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 …” the final two numbers were inaudible.

The host sprang to life, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for joining me tonight. I’m Cory Connor, and this is Deep Thought, where we delve into what’s driving today’s headlines. And, our top story today is the incident at the Port of Reykjavik where an automatic guided vehicle, what in the industry is referred to as an “AGV,” collided with a man.

As of now, that man’s identity is still unknown, and what little the hospital can share is that he is in critical condition, clinging to life in the ICU. We’re, of course, hoping that he makes a quick recovery.

Now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the footage as it’s been airing basically on repeat all day. What I can add to today’s coverage is that our internal experts and a panel of external specialists have verified the authenticity of the video. It is, thus, no deep fake.

So, what we want to dig into is our perhaps damning coverage of the revelations that the Port’s AI 2.0 system was running adaptive code that enabled the AGV to choose to hit the man – this is coming from a confidential source, a source that I’m told comes from within the port’s own team of experts.

To help us unpack what’s happening here are two of the foremost experts on artificial intelligence, European Parliamentarian and the Head of ELAIR, Greg Peterson and Dr. Griselle Grimsdottir, the ‘Mother of AI 2.0.’ ”

As the sound-bite title fell on Griselle’s ears, she winced internally. Externally, she worked to hide her discomfort with both the title and her apprehension of being front and center. Every fiber in her body was urging her to duck under the desk and bolt for her lab as they cut to commercial break. Instead, she simply replied, “Thanks for having me.”

“Dr. Grimsdottir, is this even technically possible?” Came the first question from Cory.

“At a technical level, yes. A fundamental difference between earlier AI and AI 2.0 is in the AI’s ability to apply adaptive code to both the systems they oversee and their own systems,” replied Griselle.

“And also, fundamentally no!” Greg quickly interjected in rebuttal. “AI 2.0 systems cannot do harm to a human under the AI 2.0 Ethics Act of 2029. What’s being proposed here is not possible.”

Cory interjected, “Well, I see there’s some disagreement. Greg, ELAIR has consistently argued that a lack of AI accountability is tied to this notion that AI’s cannot do harm to humans and, as such, a firm legal position whereby an AI and/or their manufacturer cannot be held accountable. Isn’t that so?”

“That’s accurate, Cory, the Ethics Act makes it clear that an AI cannot place a value on human life. This is concretely clear,” stated Greg.

“But it is only a guideline, Cory,” Griselle piped in, “a guideline that doesn’t have to be followed.”

“But it is followed. The Ethics Act works,” Greg shot back.

“As far as you know, sure. But that still doesn’t change the fact that they are guidelines, not practice. A developer could choose to ignore them, and then there are no repercussions,” Griselle finished.

Griselle knew this was the most basic point of the overall argument, but it was a good starting point to calm her nerves and focus her attention. I’m only just getting warmed up, Greg, she thought.

“Any developer caught ignoring the guidelines would be ostracized and held accountable in their relevant jurisdictions. While we, of course, need ELAIR to eventually be solved, AI isn’t at a point where it is a requirement,” replied Greg.

“Greg, do you really believe that?” Griselle fired back.

“Of course I do! The Act works, and it works well. Self-governance and social pressure are some of the strongest control mechanisms we have. I like to think of them as the ‘carrot’ approach. Sociology tells us carrots work better than the ELAIR ‘stick’ ever will,” Greg added, feeling proud of the spur-of-the-moment wordplay he’d come up with.

“Sociology studies may favor the carrot over the stick, but history shows us countless examples of governments, corporations, and individuals all acting in self-interest, ignoring informal and relaxed rules. This brought us world wars, scandals like ENRON, the Great Recession of 2008, and the social media ‘Dark Ages’ of the mid-2020s. No, I’m afraid to say that history doesn’t stand with you, Greg,” quipped Griselle.

Greg shot a blank stare at Griselle. His proud feeling from a moment ago had given way to a twinge of anger. Griselle had always been a better debater than him during their time together in academia … but she’s been living under a rock since her daughter died, he thought to himself, determined to up his game.

Cory felt the tension between the two. Their personal history was unknown to him, but the tension was clear. “Let’s shift a bit. Greg, our source at RPA claims to have proof, datasets that show the AI system had chosen to incorporate into its adaptive code recommendations for the AGV system. Datasets that showed that it was less costly for it to take the life and for RPA to pay a settlement then it was to stop or avoid the collision and deal with an unforeseen, resulting consequence.”

“I’d love to see such data. I have serious doubts that this could even exist. Who could come up with such nonsense?” Greg questioned back.

Griselle was quick to respond, “Greg, you really must do your research. You always were one to skimp in this area. Dr. Ivanov, an economist out of Russia, published a series of studies that showed just this about 18 months ago.” Griselle tapped her tablet, and with a unique hand gesture, unlocked the documents. “I’ve just transmitted them to your droplet. You’d be surprised what he found actually.”

Greg’s anger was growing. He’d become accustomed to having the last word, to people listening to what he’d had to say. Since Griselle had disappeared from the radar, his overall relevance in the world had improved greatly. She was always countering him, and in their early academic days, this drove him to several AI breakthroughs, but nothing on the scale of hers.

He’d always felt like he lived in her shadow, the shadow of a woman, no less. But since she’d been gone, it was his turn to shine. Greg knew he needed to parry. He decided light-hearted and grateful would suit. Both were in direct contrast to his emotive state, but as a well-polished politician, he’d become better, over time, at consolidating his emotions and acting rationally. “Thank you, Griselle. I must agree, you were always better at research than I was when we worked together co-developing many of the breakthroughs that brought about AI 2.0.”

He thought to himself, Surely she’d deny that, and the ensuing conversation will change the direction of the argument. He paused for effect, giving her the time to step in, yet Griselle just stared at him. “But then,” he fumbled, “… but then, the dataset doesn’t negate the fact that the port’s AI system couldn’t consider the data in its adaptive code recommendations because of the Ethics Act.”

“And why not?” Cory dug, “I was under the impression that we just heard that this was completely voluntary for the developers to adhere to. How do we know they did?”

We can’t and don’t, was the honest response Greg should have given, but he felt the argument slipping from his control. “I’ve been personally assured by the developer, AIPHA, that they’ve followed the Ethics Act to a “T.” Besides, I know the CEO personally, and, if you knew him as I did, you’d know that he and his company weren’t ethically capable of such a dubious act.” Greg knew that to be an all out lie. The CEO of AIPHA frequently used ethically questionable means to achieve his ends.

The night she’d confronted Greg at the restaurant with the AI manufacturer and lobbyist in attendance, she realized, this was the man. She fought her mind to stay here, in this moment, to stay sharp and not revisit that night. “Personal assurances aside, Greg, there isn’t any proof. There is no way we can know they did. The only option is to take the AI offline and review her data records and the data records of the AGV in question.”

“That’s a stretch, Griselle. We have to think about the economic impacts of such a decision. RPA is now one of the largest transshipment hubs in the Arctic Passage. Taking their AI offline on this witch-hunt doesn’t just hurt the Icelandic economy, it hurts all of the EU and the world.”

Griselle had roleplayed this debate hundreds of times with MARS in the preceding months. Together, they had devised multiple strategies for her to follow, logical arguments that would counter Greg’s likely responses. Over the course of the coming hour, the two sparred back and forth, each time Griselle taking a small win that collectively added up to a pending inquiry into Athena’s actions.

She could feel all of the preparation, the planning, the pain and suffering she both felt and had caused coming to a head. She knew Greg and could see he was at the tipping point. It is time to seal his fate, she thought.

“Greg, let’s be honest. I think you’ve shown throughout the evening that you’re not as interested in ELAIR finding a resolution for AI accountability as you are in keeping the status quo, in helping big business realize it’s corrupt outcomes.” Greg’s face was growing visibility red even through his makeup.

“Let’s level with each other here, Greg, it’s exhausting trying to keep you telling the truth in this debate.” Greg’s eyes widened in what Griselle saw as panic. “We both know that the AI system in question has committed this particular behavior before. Forensic psychologists would call that a ‘pattern of behavior.’ ”

Greg didn’t think she’d drag her family into this, “Griselle, those records are sealed, so accordingly, you know that it’s an offense to discuss them!”

“But a relevant fact nonetheless, don’t you think?” Griselle knew the risk of being fined for the disclosure was another small price to pay to see ELAIR move forward and for justice to finally come to her daughter’s memory.

Greg realized that he’d been beaten and his resulting anger was palpable. Any friendship he and this lady in front of him once shared was gone. He didn’t recognize her, and that’s when it slipped from his mouth, unintended at first, but entirely with malice. He wanted to hurt Griselle back. “Well, if we’re being honest, Griselle, then maybe you should tell them that your daughter killed herself because of that court ruling, and you can’t possibly be unbiased when discussing it.”

As quickly as the words left his mouth, he could see the blow they caused Griselle. Her body immediately shifted backward as her mind slipped into the memory of her last conversation with her daughter, of her crying into the phone while she was on the other side of the world.

She couldn’t make out the sound of her daughter’s voice in her mind anymore. She knew the words and could remember her daughters face, but her voice was gone. Her beautiful voice was gone, and she could do nothing to bring it back. Despair filled Griselle’s heart, and tears welled up in her eyes. She grasped for the tablet, for the safety and confidence she’d found in MARS. As her hand tapped at the screen, it sprang to life.

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