‘Not Tonight 2’ tackles capitalism and political greed in an ‘alternative’ US

Three years after taking on Brexit in , publisher No More Robots and developer PanicBarn are working on a sequel to the satirical political RPG. Not Tonight 2 takes place in a supposedly alternate version of the US, where “capitalism and political greed have taken center stage and democracy is a thing of the past.” 

Not Tonight 2 centers around three intertwined stories written by a group of POC artists and authors. Three characters — Malik, Kevin and Mari — embark on a road to trip to try and save their friend Eduardo from deportation or another terrible fate.

The original game drew comparisons to Papers, Please for its core gameplay of checking IDs as a bouncer at pubs and nightclubs. Those mechanics are back in the sequel, along with a variety of minigames, including everything from word association and rhythm games to working at the border wall, joining a cult and serving poutine to Canadians. 

More than 400,000 people have played Not Tonight, which landed on Nintendo Switch last year. Not Tonight 2 should hit Steam later this year.

Not Tonight 2

No More Heroes/PanicBarn

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Tech News

Artificial intelligence and the McData-fueled future of capitalism

Ba da ba ba bah, McDonald’s is capturing and storing biometric data on its customers without their knowledge or consent.

Per a report from The Register, McDonald’s may be facing a class action lawsuit after an Illinois customer sued the mega-corporation for allegedly violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA):

(The plaintiff) sued McDonald’s … on behalf of himself and all other affected residents of Illinois. He claimed the fast-chow biz has broken BIPA by not obtaining written consent from its customers to collect and process their voice data.

Illinois has some of the stiffest biometric privacy laws in the US.

The lawsuit apparently stems from the company’s use of automated drive-thru order takers in the form of chatbots.

Drive-thru customers were subjected to experimental natural language processing (NLP) AI in the state, in at least 10 of the company’s locations. While it’s unclear exactly what AI systems McDonald’s was using during the trial, it stands to reason the company would need to collect and store user data in order to train its AI.

The big picture

It’s hard to spot precedence in the wild, but there’s no denying the world sits on the rocky precipice of embracing autonomy. This very well could be the legal catalyst that kicks off the big business V big government debate over how we’re going to go about transitioning to the next technology paradigm for capitalism.

From a purely business-oriented POV, McDonald’s might not be in as bad a position as it appears. What’s an eight-figure lawsuit to company worth nearly $200 billion?

McDonald’s has been dabbling in AI systems for years now, and there’s an argument to be made that it’s poised to lead the charge when it comes to autonomous systems.

The perfect storm

Autonomous robotics technology is nothing new. Today it powers automotive factories and the garment manufacturing industry.

And that makes it easy for us to imagine other industries, such as fast food, adopting a similar approach. We’ve certainly heard a lot about burger-flipping robots and the end of entry-level jobs for the past decade.

The majority of discourse on automation focuses on the one-for-one human costs of replacement. We often envision the debate being about whether the efficiency and corporate labor cost reductions are worth the potential mass displacement of human workers.

But what if we stop thinking about McDonald’s like a greasy spoon and start thinking of it like Facebook, Google, or Microsoft.

The mainstream my recognize those as a social network, search giant, and OS developer respectively, but the truth of the matter is each one is an AI-first company. And with each passing year, AI endeavors make up a greater portion of their profits and net worth.

[Read: Global AI market predicted to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2028]

If McDonald’s were to convert its global market position as a restaurateur into a horizontal entry into the technology sector… interesting things could happen.

McDonald’s, but as an AI company

Strip away the what and how of where McDonald’s exists as a global corporation and you can compare it to other big tech businesses. The most apt comparison might be Facebook.

McDonald’s serves approximately one percent of the global population on a daily basis. Facebook, by contrast, reaches approximately 25% of the population. The biggest difference between the two, arguably, is that consumers typically have to pay to use the former’s services while Facebook monetizes its customers.

Let’s imagine a new McDonald’s where the food no longer costs money. Like Facebook, all you’d have to do is sign up and create a profile. Then, you could either go to a McDonald’s location to pick up food or request a delivery.

Every few orders, however, you may be asked to do something simple such as filling out a series of questionnaires similar to those “I’m not a robot” CAPTCHA’s where you click on the traffic lights or bicycles.

You might be tasked with ordering via voice or handwriting, so the system can capture your biometric data.

Most of the time, however, you’d just get free food for signing up and agreeing to McDonald’s terms and conditions.

Behold: Hypercapitalism

If this sounds a bit like socialism or communism, just remember: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Whatever data McDonald’s could gather would be worth a fortune. It’s already a globally recognized brand with more than 38,000 locations in 100 countries.

The reason why so many big tech companies have pivoted to AI is because it’s a trillionaire’s market. Anyone can gather data, but only a few organizations have the money and infrastructure to gather data from billions of people at a time – and even fewer can ensure they’ll keep coming back for more no matter what.

There’s nothing stopping McDonald’s from using its burgers and nuggets to achieve the same goals as Facebook does with Candy Crush and conservative conspiracy theories.

The picture starts to come into focus when you consider that Facebook was founded in 2004 and it’s worth $280 billion while the first McDonald’s opened in 1955 and its only worth $170 billion.

Could McDonald’s turn feeding the hungry into the next big global data-gathering endeavor? What would you do for a “free” cheeseburger?

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How stakeholder capitalism and AI ethics go hand in hand

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.

At a 2020 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff declared that “capitalism as we have known it is dead.” In its place now is stakeholder capitalism, a form of capitalism that has been spearheaded by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, over the past 50 years. As Benioff put it, stakeholder capitalism is “a more fair, a more just, a more equitable, a more sustainable way of doing business that values all stakeholders, as well as all shareholders.”

Unlike shareholder capitalism, which is measured primarily by the monetary profit generated for a business’ shareholders alone, stakeholder capitalism requires that business activity should benefit all stakeholders associated with the business. These stakeholders can include the shareholders, the employees, the customers, the local community, the environment, etc. As an example, Benioff’s approach includes homeless people in San Francisco as stakeholders in Salesforce.

While believers in stakeholder capitalism have been working on the idea for some time now, an important milestone was reached in early 2021. Following discussion at the 2020 meeting led by Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, a formalized set of ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) metrics were announced that business can report, indexed around 4 pillars:

  • Principles of governance
  • Planet
  • People
  • Prosperity

These metrics are important because they make it possible to easily audit a business’ compliance to the principles of stakeholder capitalism.

Given the role that technology has within business, it is impossible to overlook the growing impact that artificial intelligence will have in society and the parallels to the discussion of stakeholder capitalism. Many businesses are transitioning from a goal of pure profit to more inclusive and responsible goals of stakeholder capitalism. In AI we are also at the start of a transition – one that moves from the goal of maximizing pure accuracy to goals that are inclusive and responsible. In fact, given the prevalence of AI technologies across businesses, they will become critical components of stakeholder capitalism.

Also present at the 2020 meeting was then IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who, when questioned about stakeholder capitalism in the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution, said that this is “going to be the decade of trust.” It is critical that all stakeholders trust in business and the technologies that they use. With respect to AI, Rometty said it is important to have a set of ethical principles (such as principles of transparency, bias mitigation, and explainability) and that you should audit your business to them.

Not all organisations will have adopted stakeholder capitalism principles as vocally and publicly as the likes of Benioff’s Salesforce. However, businesses still have traditional CSR (corporate social responsibility) requirements and in the context of AI, existing and proposed regulation also contain similar themes as those discussed in the context of stakeholder capitalism at the World Economic Forum meeting.

Shortly after the stakeholder capitalism ESG metrics were announced in January of this year, the U.S. Department of Defense announced its AI ethical principles in February. The European Union followed with proposed AI regulation in April (which affects business both inside and outside of the EU), and then the UK announced its guidance on the ethics of algorithmic decisioning in May. Look at these announcements (and the 2019 proposed Algorithmic Accountability Act in the United States) and you will see many requirements, including those for governance, transparency, and fairness — requirements that align clearly with the goals and metrics of stakeholder capitalism.

So just over a year into this decade of trust, what should businesses be doing? IBM has introduced the role of a Chief AI Ethics Officer, and Deloitte give plenty of detail on what this role entails. Not all business will quite be ready for this role, but they can start by documenting their ethical principles. As Rometty pointed out, it is important to know what you stand for as a company. What are your values? These lead to the formation of a set of ethical principles, which can lead you to form your own (or adopt an existing) AI ethics framework for your business.

Again, drawing a parallel to the ESG metrics announced in January that take stakeholder capitalism from talk to auditable action, you must test and audit your AI systems against your framework to move beyond talk and demonstrate your AI systems’ compliance (or lack thereof) with hard metrics.

Thorough, auditable ethics for AI should not be seen to be at odds with your business goals.  As Rometty put it, “it is not good for anyone if people do not find the digital era to be an inclusive era where they see a better future for themselves.” Effective governance of AI ethics provides benefit to all stakeholders and that includes the shareholders too.

Stuart Battersby is Chief Technology Officer of Chatterbox Labs, where he leads a team of scientists and engineers who have built the AI Model Insights platform from the ground up.  He holds a PhD in Cognitive Science from Queen Mary, University of London.


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