What do Functionalists think about Artificial Intelligence?

Functionalists argue that mass media embodies and exemplifies our values, ideals, and beliefs while serving four primary functions within society. Functionalists would explain artificial intelligence as a technology that is based upon and amplifies its creators’ values to accomplish different tasks. Artificial intelligence works in tandem with humans, learning from our values, the ways we program it, and interact with it, to solve the goals that we ask for. Eventually, artificial intelligence may advocate its own goals. Functionalists would argue that artificial intelligence serves four primary functions in unique ways to fill human desires within society. The socialization function refers to the role of passing on values, beliefs and traditions through generations. Artificial intelligence would support this function because it is already trained and contains the values, beliefs and traditions that we have instructed it to learn (whether consciously or not). Further, every action and decision of artificial intelligence is a reflection of the values and beliefs of itself (and therefore its creators). Counter to popular opinion that artificial intelligence can think for itself, it must first learn through its creators and therefore take on some of its values. Effectively, like a human child, artificial intelligence is first socialized through its creators, carries out those values in its decisions, and will further amplify these values and pass them on through every decision that it makes. Secondly, artificial intelligence will conform to the surveillance function, which refers to the role of gathering and distributing data to people. Artificial intelligence is already doing this and will get even better at this because it works by gathering large amounts of data, finding patterns within that data and then making decisions. This is one of the areas it will excel the most. For example, it can gather data on a person from their social media and habits on the internet to determine a person’s desires, interests and what they might be willing to purchase. Further, it can find similarities across large populations of people and figure out how to best provide engaging information (or propagandize). Breaches of data will be an enormous problem for artificial intelligence because it also creates a honey pot for hackers to discover and access confidential information. The correlation function refers to the role of media in filtering and clarifying information so that it can easily be consumed by the general public. Artificial intelligence will serve the correlation function because it can easily synthesize data. Lastly, it serves the function of entertainment because it can be used to enhance all forms of entertainment including art, music and TV shows. A primary use case being shared in the video was artificial intelligence’s influence on the music industry. It can even create its own songs that reflect the artists that programmed it. Artificial intelligence will be great for entertainment because it can find patterns among popular songs and videos, highlight what makes those special, and create similar but unique content. I believe that while artificial intelligence is meant to serve and enhance all humans, it will inevitably reflect the values of its creators. I am very concerned about its potential to further amplify cultural, gender, and racial values (and possibly even go unnoticed). I believe that programmers and creators need to be especially aware of their values, narratives, ideas about the world, and differences among people (whether race, gender, socioeconomic or culturally related) because otherwise, we risk artificial intelligence furthering western, white values (who make up the majority of people in the field). It is similar to raising a child, only with artificial intelligence, we don’t know what the potential impacts may be. Beyond this, even the desire for technology to be so connected with humans, to enhance our nature, and the various use cases for artificial intelligence stems predominantly from a western culture that constantly desires more and assumes we are not good enough. I am concerned that artificial intelligence may play an even stronger role in reinforcing white western values across the world. I am not convinced that this is necessarily a good thing.