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How Would You Feel If Your Boss Was A Robot? The Employees Of Deep Knowledge Are About To Find Out

How would you feel if your boss was a robot? Would you take orders from them, trusting that they were programmed to act in your best interests? Would you remain at your company, in spite of your discomfort with the idea? Or would you balk at the notion of taking orders from a machine and search for greener pastures?

The employees of Deep Knowledge - a Japanese venture capital firm - are about to find out. The firm this week was the first in the world to add an artificial intelligence to its board of directors. The robot - named Vital(short for Validating Investment Tool For Advancing Life Sciences) - was chosen because it's capable of picking up on market trends "not immediately obvious to humans."  According to a representative of the Hong-Kong based group, Vital is an 'equal member' of the board, with every bit as much authority as its human agents. 

Vital was developed by Aging Analytics, a UK organization which has leased the robot to deep knowledge to help it make business decisions on therapies for age-related ailments.  Vital will thus serve as something of a representative for the organization, analyzing trends in the databases of life science companies in an effort to predict which investments will succeed - and which are better to avoid. Already, Vital's made two major investment decisions, putting money into Pathway Pharmaceuticals and InSilico Medicine. 

Eventually, the software's expected to become a full board member with an equal vote (though I suspect it won't be receiving pay). 

"The variables involved in the long-term success of a biotechnology company are many and complex," Deep Knowledge explained in a statement. "We were attracted to a software tool that could in large part automate due diligence and use historical data-sets to uncover trends that are not immediately obvious to humans surveying top-line data. We plan to incorporate information from prospective investments into the databases to compare the outcomes against our selected investments. 

As for whether or not the other board members will take Vital particularly seriously, well...time will tell, I suppose. Personally, I feel as though there'll be at least a few people at Deep Knowledge who have trouble relating to Vital. Artificial intelligence simply hasn't reached that point yet.

Some people don't believe it ever well. 

"With computers, you put in two bits, and you get one out. If the brain integrated information in this fashion, it would have to be continually haemhorrhaging information," explained The Natuional University of Ireland's Phil Maguire. "The brain integrates information completely - something computers by design aren't capable of doing. Since consciousness is based on total integration, computers can't be conscious." 

"It means that you would not be able to achieve the same results in finite time, using finite memory, using a physical machine," he continued. "It doesn't necessarily mean that there's some magic going on in the brain involving some forces that can't be explained physically, it's just so complex that it's beyond our abilities to reverse and decompose it." 

Of course, even Maguire acknowledges that his theory of consciousness isn't perfect, and that technology could very well one-up him in the future.

"Maybe, if you had a very clever algorithm, you could break down people's memories and edit them."  

That might be a good thing, considering the human tendency to obey machines without question