Author Michael Kanaan was the first chairperson for artificial intelligence for the U.S. Air Force and is current director of operations at the Air Force/MIT Artificial Intelligence Accelerator.
T-Minus AI is the story of the evolution of human intelligence, as well as the development of computers. Originally, computers required specific instructions in order to accomplish tasks. But in 2012, algorithms changed so that computers would not require human knowledge to perform tasks; they would instead use data-based learning and pattern recognition to discover the problems to solve. Deep-learning allowed data to become experience to a computer. This is the foundation of AI: computer-driven methods of handling information that perform better and faster than humans can. AI has applications for tasks in all fields.
AGI (artificial general intelligence) refers to the ability of a machine to process or operate as well as a human being. Superintelligence refers to machine ability that is greater than that of a human. Neither of these technologies currently exist, but narrow AI (what we have today) does, and it has abilities that require diligent, serious, and thoughtful planning and policy development in order protect our human rights, dignities, and vision.
Since AI allows new methods of aggregating, controlling, and applying information, the huge differences between democratic and authoritarian nations means that we must be committed to protecting our traditions of freedoms and individual liberties.
Russia will likely use its effort to advance military applications and cyber disinformation capabilities, whereas China wants to use AI to establish itself as the economic leader of the world. China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) already has at least 140 countries in all continents receiving assistance from China. The author suggests that China’s attempts at spreading its 5G infrastructure to countries that will likely become dependent on it, and possibly insecure due to it, might be compared to Britain’s enactment of the burdensome Stamp Act in 1765, when American colonists were required to use only paper from England. Neither Russia nor China has any history, need, or desire to consider the rights, dignities, or liberties of its people, or any other people, when choosing how to use AI. China’s AI use today involves facial recognition capacities that provide the Chinese Communist Party the ability to employ intentional bias against Uighurs in Xinjiang, and it plans to eventually have all Chinese people in its “social credit score” system by 2025.
While AI can enhance our lives, our best plans must include putting aside our political divisions as a necessity for common good, lest we forsake the principles in the American Constitution, and widen the risk that we could fall victim to AI policies that abandon our freedoms and rights. Thankfully, various actions taken by both the Obama administration and the Trump administration have established regulations and practices influencing the uses of AI with the aim of protecting our heritage.
I was interested is the author’s perspectives regarding the conceivable effects AI might have on American values, considering the application of this technology elsewhere. I was also curious of his views on the sort of future we may expect as the interface of quantum computing and AI evolves. We are exceedingly grateful for his responses.
32nd Avenue Books: How do you see the evolution of quantum computing vis-à-visartificial intelligence?
Michael Kanaan: Quantum computing and artificial intelligence are both transformative technologies and complementary in a technical sense. Quantum computing provides unparalleled processing power which will advance capabilities in the application of machine learning algorithms. At the same time, current day machine learning advances our understanding of the quantum information sciences. Think of it as a virtuous cycle, and perhaps in the future we'll see it in everyday life, but we still have much to discover when it comes to most real-world use cases. But this is an exciting time to be in both fields!
I'm glad you asked this question because, while not directly addressed in the book, I'm an avid armchair occupier of all things quantum. For the discerning eye, I still wanted to make a nod towards quantum so I opened the acknowledgements with "A universal wave of possibilities underlies all we are and all we do. Our reality only emerges from the energy and involvement of the people with whom we entangle" to describe my gratitude towards those who helped bring this book into existence. I believe those two sentences to be quite accurate in life and science.
32nd Avenue Books: Americansare fortunate to have a history of great respect fortheir rights and liberties. How would you describe the attributes of the path we must follow in order to preserve that respect?
Michael Kanaan: The human story is full of transformative technologies and moments, but our collective success or failure depends on being ready for the moment. This means we have to watch out for how we use AI and others use it, but that starts by broadly understanding and recognizing the technology when we see it. This in part was my purpose for writing T-Minus AI.
With that said, I suppose there’s a bit of hopefulness. I’m quite bullish on the opportunities at hand for AI to embody values of respect, equality, inclusiveness, and others that are foundationally centered on the idea of human dignity. But in order to get there, the attributes of the path ahead start with a broadly consistent, shared, and common foundation of the technology -- learning is a lifetime sport for us all. Only then can we bring a level of practicality and pragmatism in order to ensure our uses don't infringe on rights and disenfranchise people, groups, and communities. The brass tacks hard work to achieve that starts now.
The path forward will take different people, from different backgrounds, and with different focuses so that we’re generally aware of the opportunities or compromises we will face in the years ahead. For what it’s worth, progress often precedes peril. Developments that bring improvements for some frequently present risks for others. As long as that reality is in the forefront of our mind then I think we'll be okay and AI can be used to better society as a whole.
2020 Foreword Indie Award Honorable Mention in the "Science & Technology" Category
Late in 2017, the global significance of the conversation about artificial intelligence (AI) changed forever.
China put the world on alert when it released a plan to dominate all aspects of AI across the planet. Only weeks later, Vladimir Putin raised a Russian red flag in response by declaring AI the future for all humankind, and proclaiming that, "Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world."
The race was on. Consistent with their unique national agendas, countries throughout the world began plotting their paths and hurrying their pace. Now, not long after, the race has become a sprint.
Despite everything at stake, to most of us AI remains shrouded by a cloud of mystery and misunderstanding. Hidden behind complicated and technical jargon and confused by fantastical depictions of science fiction, the modern realities of AI and its profound implications are hard to decipher, but crucial to recognize.
In T-Minus AI: Humanity's Countdown to Artificial Intelligence and the New Pursuit of Global Power, author Michael Kanaan explains AI from a human-oriented perspective we can all finally understand. A recognized national expert and the U.S. Air Force's first Chairperson for Artificial Intelligence, Kanaan weaves a compelling new view on our history of innovation and technology to masterfully explain what each of us should know about modern computing, AI, and machine learning.
Kanaan also dives into the global implications of AI by illuminating the cultural and national vulnerabilities already exposed and the pressing issues now squarely on the table. AI has already become China's all-purpose tool to impose its authoritarian influence around the world. Russia, playing catch up, is weaponizing AI through its military systems and now infamous, aggressive efforts to disrupt democracy by whatever disinformation means possible.
America and like-minded nations are awakening to these new realities—and the paths they're electing to follow echo loudly the political foundations and, in most cases, the moral imperatives upon which they were formed.
As we march toward a future far different than ever imagined, T-Minus AI is fascinating and crucially well-timed. It leaves the fiction behind, paints the alarming implications of AI for what they actually are, and calls for unified action to protect fundamental human rights and dignities for all.
About the Author
Michael Kanaan is the co-chair of Artificial Intelligence for the US Air Force at the Pentagon. In that role, he guides the research, development, and implementation strategies for AI technology and machine learning activities across Air Force global operations. He is currently the Director of Operations for Air Force / MIT Artificial Intelligence. In recognition of his fast-rising career, the author was named to the 2019 Forbes "30 Under 30" list and has received numerous other awards and prestigious honors—including the Air Force's 2018 General Larry O. Spencer Award for Innovation as well as the US Government's Arthur S. Flemming Award (an honor shared by past recipients Neil Armstrong, Robert Gates, and Elizabeth Dole). Kanaan is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and previously led a National Intelligence Campaign for Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq.
"Mike Kanaan is an influential new voice in the field of AI, and his thoughts paint an insightful perspective. A thought-provoking read."
—Eric Schmidt, former CEO and executive chairman of Google
"Too many discussions of artificial intelligence are dominated by idealists and cynics. Mike Kanaan is neither: He's a realist with a wealth of insight on how smart machines are shaping the future. This is one of the best books I've read on AI."
—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the chart-topping TED podcast WorkLife
"Kanaan's book makes us aware of the urgent need for international understanding and a formal agreement on AI. Without binding commitments, the future will pose threats, both military and social, that risk our very survival. AI may be a blessing, but it can also be the ultimate curse. The world must agree to draw a red line between the two, and make sure that no one crosses it."
—Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner, father of microfinance and social business, recipient of US Presidential Medal of Freedom and US Congressional Gold Medal
"Never have I read a book that did a better job of putting the challenges and prospects of artificial intelligence into context. It's an exceptionally rich context, involving science, history, technology, and our current geopolitical situation. Reading this book will not only help you understand what AI is all about, it will help you understand how it fits into the world today and into the future."
—Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, host of Mindscape podcast, and New York Times bestselling author of Something Deeply Hidden
"Kanaan recounts the history of AI and why its rapid advance prompts both hopes and fears. He offers a valuable and distinctive perspective on the international tensions it may create."
—Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal and former president of the Royal Society of London
"Mike Kanaan is a driving new voice in the field of AI. His explanations, insights, and perspectives are trustworthy and brutally intelligent. He's the voice of reason in the room, the one to look to."
—Jeremy Bash, NBC News analyst and former chief of staff for the CIA and Department of Defense
"As a tech venture capitalist, I know how critical it is that people understand artificial intelligence. T-Minus AI explains what we all need to know—not only what AI is, but also the great implications going forward. Eye opening and extremely entertaining."
—Joe Montana, tech investor, founding partner of Liquid 2 Ventures, four-time Super Bowl champion, and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback
"T-Minus AI is enormously illuminating—a fascinating deep dive into one of the most important issues of our day by a leading expert in the field—who also happens to be a riveting writer. I haven't learned so much from a book in ages."
—Amy Chua, Yale Law professor and New York Times bestselling author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
"If we are going to prepare our students to lead the next generation, every educator needs to understand the impact of AI on our society. Kanaan's work is the perfect resource to bring you up to speed and to understand the history, scope, and future of AI technology. Leaders and teachers at all levels of education, along with their students, need this book on their reading lists."
—Jeff Charbonneau, former US National Teacher of the Year and former finalist for the Global Teacher Prize
"What is AI? If you're mystified by the hype, high hopes, and conflicting predictions of the power and danger of Artificial Intelligence, this book is for you. It offers a gentle introduction into the history of intelligent machines, the strengths and the dangers that they pose, the different ways that selected world powers make use of (and misuse) these technologies, and what kinds of policies and laws might help. Mike Kanaan offers a fresh new voice."
—Don Norman, professor and director of The Design Lab, University of California, San Diego, and bestselling author of The Design of Everyday Things
"T-Minus AI is a must-read about the technology that will drive massive social and political change in the future. If you want to understand AI and its impending impact on the world, this is the book to read!"
—Jordan Harbinger, creator and host of The Jordan Harbinger Show
"Part explainer. Part call-to-arms. Kanaan's book makes AI understandable and with that it also makes something clear: AI is both a threat and opportunity. A perfect hybrid of educational and thrilling, T-Minus AI is an essential read."
—Allen Gannett, author of The Creative Curve
"For an accessible and sober explanation of today's most transformative technology, this is THE book to read. T-Minus AI will be part of a new canon."
—Kara Frederick, technology and national security fellow at Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
"T-Minus AI is a thought leading gem that explains the underlying technology and geopolitical power of AI. Brilliantly written, immensely informative, and as entertaining as a great novel!"
—August Cole, coauthor of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War and Burn In: A Novel of the Real Robot Revolution
"It takes rare talent and a sharp mind to make complex technical topics like artificial intelligence and machine learning sound both accessible and beautiful. Kanaan has done both. This is an exceptionally well-written, thoroughly researched book. Read it. It will make you smarter!"
—Dr. Margarita Konaev, fellow at Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), Georgetown University
"Artificial intelligence is the next wave that everyone and every business must understand. Mike's leadership in the field is powerful, and his explanation of the topic is second-to-none. Read this book!"
—Jordan Katzman, cofounder of SmileDirectClub
"At a critical time for humanity, this captivating book is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand how AI works, how it can be used, and how it will affect us all."
—Lindsey Sheppard, international security fellow at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)