Genevieve Bell: “Humanity’s greatest fear is about being irrelevant”

Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell explains in an interview with The Observer’s Ian Tucker why being scared about AI has more to do with our fear of each other than killer robots.

A lot of the work you do examines the intersection between the intended use of a device and how people actually use it, and examining the disconnection. Could you talk about something you’re researching at the moment?

I’m interested in how animals are connected to the internet and how we might be able to see the world from an animal’s point of view. There’s something very interesting in someone else’s vantage point, which might have a truth to it. For instance, the tagging of cows for automatic milking machines, so that the cows can choose when to milk themselves. Cows went from being milked twice a day to being milked three to six times a day, which is great for the farm’s productivity and results in happier cows, but it’s also faintly disquieting that the technology makes clear to us the desires of cows, making them visible in ways they weren’t before. So what does one do with that knowledge? One of the unintended consequences of big data and the internet of things is that some things will become visible and compel us to confront them.