“Artificial Intelligence is as dangerous as NUCLEAR WEAPONS: AI pioneer warns smart computers could doom mankind”;
“Are the robots about to rise?”;
“It’s too late to give machines ethics –they’re already beyond our control”.
Above are but a select few from the countless headlines that have been strewn across our national media in the last week regarding Artificial Intelligence. Concerns about artificial intelligence – particularly the fear of the rise of an almighty “autonomous” machine – have been whispering around for a while, predominantly in science fiction novels; such as Sawyer’s Wake, Watch & Wonder trilogy which envisions newly conscious, super intelligent machines cooperating with humans. However, recently a far greater cry for public concern has been brought to our attention through the views of influential figures.
For example, the great physicist Stephen Hawkings believes
“the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
Musk, founder of Tesia Motors and Space X, seems to agree by voicing that Artificial Intelligence is probably
“our biggest existential threat”
He even went as far as, in an almost medieval fashion, likening advancements in the field to
“summoning the demon”
The public’s attention has been poignant, and is reflected in the success of Channel 4’s Humans – the British channel’s most successful drama in 20 years. The programme is set in a parallel present, in a world in which we increasingly rely on robots. Interestingly, they are marketed as high tech-luxury house appliances. Human’s depiction of artificial intelligence has sparked many debates on the topic – particularly on how it could threaten mankind. Sam Vincent – one of the show’s main writers – points out that society’s increasingly dependent and emotional relationship with technology makes audiences very receptive to the issues. Can you imagine a world in which we are as reliant on our “household robot” as we are with our smart phones, never leaving it out of sight? What happens if these robots override their systems? It is the unpredictability of the future that is perhaps the most frightening.
As one might describe civil engineering as the art of building bridges, rather than the art of building bridges which don’t fall down, one might describe artificial intelligence in a similar light – suggests leading academic Professor Russel of Berkeley University. For Russel the advancement of Artificial Intelligence is inevitable. Although not all consequences are predictable, we must be prudent and ensure that it is developed in way in which we can somehow ensure its safety and thereby guarantee the safety of humankind.
A positive outcome of the developments in artificial technology has been the ability to “make better drugs” – it has been able to cut cancer drug development in half. The co-founder of Berg – a company that’s pairing artificial intelligence with medical research to create more precise treatments – Naraine, believes that “precision medicine is going to be the future” and that “artificial intelligence and the next generation of biology will allow us to participate in our own health”. Whether the positives will outweigh the potential threat to the human race will wait to be seen.