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EP36 – John C. Havens on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and the Uncanny Valley

September 25, 2017

This episode is one I’ve been really keen to release since recording it as I’ve been reading about what AI could mean to us in the short and longer term so had a bunch of questions to put to John. The ethics around AI is only something I started to consider about a year ago when I heard some of the considerations that need to be factored in when designing self-driving cars. When John agreed to come on to the show, I was delighted.

John C. Havens is Executive Director of The IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems. The IEEE Global AI Ethics Initiative has two primary outputs – the creation and iteration of a body of work known as Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Wellbeing with Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems and the identification and recommendation of ideas for Standards Projects focused on prioritizing ethical considerations in AI/AS. Currently there are eleven approved Standards Working Groups in the IEEE P7000™ series.

He is also a regular contributor on issues of technology and well-being to Mashable, The Guardian, HuffPost and TechCrunch and is author of the books, Heartificial Intelligence: Embracing Our Humanity To Maximize Machines and Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World (both published by TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House). He plays a mean Harmonica and has been in a number of Movies and TV shows during his acting days.

During the conversation, John talks about being his early years growing up, being bullied in school and feeling this led to him becoming more introspective and creative. He was always into music and acting. These outlets were great for John’s creativity. In high-school, John joined bands and developed a very strong faith. He believed he would be a minister once leaving high-school and started to pursue this. It was during college, where John decided to following a career in acting. He noted that he met many actors during his career that were working towards a religious career and vise versa. He talks about working as a professional actor appearing on Law and Order. John was a geek all his life and had a key interest in technology.

John decided to move away from Acting when he had kids so he could stay closer to the family. He started out podcasting in 2005 as it was an option to tell stories. This gave him a voice and from there he started to do some talks on podcasting and moved into business development. This lead to other roles in PR. All the while, John was ghost writing books and articles.

We dig into Johns latest book – Hartificical Intelligence – and I ask john about his approach as he tells stories that help make some of the potential concerns and ethical considerations of AI very real.

Some of the very interesting topics discussed:
• Personality Tests and their value
• What is the Uncanny Valley
• Working on Mastery & Flow
• The next new wave of Media touching on Augmented and Virtual Reality
• Use of chips & sensors in the brain today and the future
• Techniques on how to identify our own Values
• What is Anthropomorphism and how it links to AI and Acting
• The role of ethics in AI – the self-driving car ethical decisions
• Dealing with Human Agency with AI – new technologies brings new challenges
• How AI is going to make people look harder at their own Value set?
• Closing Question – what’s the question nobody asks you but you wish they would?

John recommended the following Book Recommendations:
Quiet: The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain
Alone Together – Sherry Turtle

I encourage you to check out more details on the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems that John is working on and discussed by clicking here

To get in touch with John, he’s on Twitter – @JohnCHavens or visit John’s site http://www.johnchavens.com/

Hope you enjoy this one. Please feel free to share, like, comment, provide feedback and most of all, keep listening.


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