Silicon Valley, we need to have a little talk about artificial intelligence. Get a cup of coffee (or a can of Red Bull) and take a seat.

Guys. Guuuuuys. You need to chill.

It’s okay to be hesitant about artificial intelligence. It’s okay to be concerned about artificial intelligence. But for the love of everything sacred in our universe, can we stop acting like artificial intelligence is the most threatening, all-consuming, earth-shattering issue on the planet?

In case you’re not familiar, artificial intelligence (AI) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: the intelligence that we, as humans, have programmed into machines and software that allows them to think and function like, y’know… humans.

Codes and instructions and recognition abilities. Fake-smart robots. That kind of stuff.

Members of the Silicon Valley Brat Pack (is that a thing? Damn, someone used it already) have notoriously strong opinions on the fate of AI. Many are afraid we’re going to make machines too smart, and then everything’s going to backfire and the computers will rise against us, HAL-style.

This whole thing isn’t as simple as people being pro- or anti-AI. You can’t really be 100 percent opposed to artificial intelligence if you’re going to have anything to do with technology or innovation. It’s more a matter of how we handle the possibility of bad people doing bad things and becoming too powerful with the help of AI technology.


Musk and Altman. Image via Mashable

Elon Musk and Sam Altman recently joined forces (and wallets) to form OpenAI, a non-profit designed to create an open bucket of AI research and tech. What’s the point of that? To make it available for everyone, so that if a malintentioned someone gets any ideas, the power of the intelligent masses will intervene and prevent the apocalypse.

We understand that this move is less about keeping AI out of the hands of some potential evil genius and more about keeping a tech giant like Google or Facebook from gaining too much power. Techie checks and balances, if you will.

But let’s recognize that entrepreneur billionaires are the ones steering this discussion and everything around it, while the common folks are the ones most threatened by the only current iteration of the AI debacle: robots stealing our jobs.

Most of these people (looking at you, Musk) don’t need to work another day in their lives. As long as they’re not total idiots, money will never be a concern for them. So why are they deciding the fate of the artificial intelligence that’s out to ruin the rest of our livelihoods, or whatever they claim is going to happen?

Photo: tec_estromberg / Flickr

Photo: tec_estromberg / Flickr

The robot uprising is not happening tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Yes, looking to the future is important. But it’s wholly possible to be too consumed with what’s ahead of us to the point that we lose touch with the reality in which we live.

Imagine if just some of the billions put toward OpenAI went to present, relevant issues like unemployment, poverty, or climate change. We can’t be certain, but we’re pretty confident icecaps and glaciers are going to be a thing of the past long before an army of genius robots rises up to diminish us from the planet.

Invest your billions into fixing those things, guys. Leave the “future of the human race” stuff for later, when we’re actually in jeopardy, and more importantly, we know exactly what type of jeopardy we’re dealing with.

In an effort to do some of the heavy lifting for you, Silicon Valley, we did a quick survey of some initiatives around the Bay Area that could use even half the attention that you’re paying to AI freakouts.


The Tech Museum of Innovation

Here are four initiatives in your own neck of the woods toward which you should direct your time, energy and money while you get a grip on this AI thing.

  • MAGIC (More Active Girls In Computing): Want to shape the future of AI? Help educate people, like middle and high school girls in and around Silicon Valley, who may actually be at the forefront of the issue someday, unlike yourselves.
  • Breakthrough Silicon Valley: Preparing middle school students without many resources for college-prep high school programs and college itself.
  • Human Connexus Foundation: Providing assistance with basic needs in NorCal like housing, education, healthcare, living essentials; connections between donors and recipients
  • The Tech Museum of Innovation: Get kids excited about tech. Get them to innovate how they build with legos, or something. Keep providing them with a cool space to learn and have fun. That can make all the difference in the world.

Here’s a proposition. This whole race to conquer the problem of AI (*cough* before it’s even a real problem *cough*) is just a continuation of the MUST BE FIRST mindset that Silicon Valley cultivates. Maybe for like two seconds, entrepreneurs can stop being obsessed with the idea of who’s going to be the first to figure something out. Saving humanity shouldn’t be a competition (nor should it be your pressing goal right now, but we’ve already made that clear).

Want to shape the future?

Fix problems you can see with your own eyes.