By Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA
bSci21 Contributing Writer
As behavior analysts, we are in the science of predicting and influencing behavior. As we look to the future, one trend is sure to have a global impact on both – the emergence of machine learning and artificial intelligence. In fact, the trend is already permeating through the very fabric of society in the evolution of so-called “smart cities” which, we asserted in a past bSci21 article, potentially know you better than you know yourself. Below are my top three ways in which such technology will impact our future behavior.
- Robots Will Replace Educators and Clinicians:
This is already happening and not just in science fiction movies. In the U.K. 35-50% of jobs are at risk to automation. A robot created in Japan named Pepper can identify and respond to human emotions by comforting a person, laughing at a joke, and rapidly learning based on past experiences. I predict that in the not-too-distant future, robots like Pepper will reinforce successive approximations and “shape” a learner’s behavior based on the learner’s maintaining functions. For example, behaviors that are reinforced by social attention will receive robust praise with bells and whistles to train the learner’s responses. Behaviors maintained by tangible stimuli will be reinforced by the robot presenting the learner with an Ipad, toy, etc. Robots will reinforce appropriate escape maintained behavior by removing demands placed on the learner for appropriate requests to access a “break” or after completing the task with compliance. Even behaviors maintained by automatic reinforcement will reinforce learner behaviors by presenting sensory stimuli contingent on compliance. In fact, in a previous bSci21 article, we discussed a past Miami ABA conference featured a robot that could help deliver ABA services.
- Information Will Be Used Against Us:
We are left more vulnerable than ever with data stored digitally. Government entities, hackers, or employers can use these data against us. Allegations that Russia used hacking methods to influence the presidential election is a case in point. Even if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, data could prevent you from driving to work (accessing you driving history to deny driver’s license), recover from illness (health history denying medical insurance), or even getting a job (data on credit history). Behavior analysts could use these data, instead, in a positive way to create reinforcement systems that improve behavioral healthcare, driver safety, and job seeking behaviors. Employers are already using customized algorithms to drive peak employee performance.
- Technology Elites:
Power rests with those who control the means of production. In the Middle Ages, those that owned the land controlled the wealth and resources. In the Industrial Revolution, those that owned the factories and equipment dominated the world and the government that regulated them. It’s evident that in recent times, the banking and auto industry ruled our governmental decisions as a result of billions of dollars in bailouts to the same executives that crashed the world’s economy. The future now rests in the hands of a few technology elites, who can exert increasing amounts of influence over our behavior by obtaining our data. So far, we can choose to “opt-out” from these giants, such as Google and Facebook, from controlling our information, but sometimes opting out means you lose out on certain incentives, such as free versions of apps.
It’s imperative that behavioral science assists government in regulating artificial intelligence and big data. We can guide investigations into how such technology will affect behavior on a global scale, and recommend best practices for the use of these new resources in an ethical and responsible way.
Are you a behavior analyst that has experience with artificial intelligence or machine learning? Tell us about it in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!
Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org