What Are the Ethical Implications of M2M Technology

Back to Blog  •  Posted on December 19, 2014 by admin


MQ-1 Predator

Right now, most of our machines are still controlled by humans through industrial monitoring stations or paired Bluetooth devices which are personally owned. But what can we expect in the future, when it becomes easier for these devices to interact without the need for a human overseer? What happens when we implement artificial intelligence capable of handling those daily machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions themselves?

This Isn’t a New Question

Think about it: We’ve been struggling with the ethical implications of M2M for years. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fought using precision drone strikes. Someone thousands of miles away presses a button, and boom–mission accomplished. And so we’ve all heard the inevitable question that needs to be asked when considering the logical next step. Should we allow the drone to make the decision on its own by using data about terrorist networks pulled from a computer halfway around the globe?

With each new technology, more questions are being asked. For now, we have electronic helpers with names like Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and Wolphram Alpha. The Amazon Echo was just revealed a few weeks ago, and marks a new rung on the ladder of machine intelligence. The new device will essentially mimic the capabilities of those earlier information-based machines, except with a few key differences.

One of those differences is Echo’s ability to constantly update itself by being connected to the cloud. In addition, it will learn about your speech patterns. If this doesn’t sound like an obvious precursor to more advanced machine intelligence, you should know that the inventors of Siri are working on her successor, a prototype information-based technology they’ve named “Viv”.

What Is M2M Capable of Doing?

Viv takes the enormous potential of systems like Siri, and blows it up. The device writes its own code! One of the scarier examples the creators provided was that of a guy walking out of a bar in the middle of the night, whispering “I’m drunk” into his phone, and Viv immediately knowing enough about her owner to realize that she needs to order him a ride home. Imagine how a machine like that is capable of changing the world when pairing with other devices via Bluetooth–and imagine what happens when it pairs with another super smart piece of tech?

M2M technology has resulted in a myriad of benefits to society, spanning every industry and potentially impacting every home. It opens up a world of possibilities that could help us live happier, healthier, more productive lives as Bluetooth pairing begins to take an autonomous foothold over everyday activities. But it begs the question: Just because we can do it, does that mean we should?

Smart computers interacting with other smart computers is precariously close to becoming a reality, and it’s almost as easy to envision a nightmarish Terminator apocalypse as it is to envision a blissful utopia in which robots do all the work. Either way, should we really hand over to machines the one thing that makes us human–that being our ability to think? The question might be irrelevant, because events are already set in motion!