Anyone who’s seen The Terminator knows that artificial intelligence (AI) could be a dangerous achievement, and anyone who hasn’t (me) can take the internet’s word for it. On the other hand, science has never been a strength of Hollywood, so perhaps we ought to take the idea of a malicious artificially intelligent robot cum grano salis. Either way, computer science experts are beginning to predict the development of a computer as intelligent as a human (naturally, that will be followed by computers becoming more intelligent than humans). Whether or not superintelligent computers are hostile will likely depend on human error and designated purpose (e.g. continually improving paper clip production).
Ideally, creating an artificial general intelligence system, that being the AI that acts like the human brain: many areas of intelligence and learning that adapt over time and experience, would permit humanity to improve itself. Anything we can do now AI could help us do better, so long as it won’t eventually outsmart us and kick us to kingdom come because we’ve become flies on its monitor.
So, to fear or not to fear? Nick Bostrom, author of the paper clip scenario, is both excited and terrified (rarely a pleasant combination in someone predicting the future). He believes we could control artificial intelligence if we program it correctly, but he also thinks we aren’t smart enough to train AI. Comforting thought. His solution is to let AI program itself, but that still begs the question of whether a relatively unintelligent artificial intelligence could so improve itself. Artificial intelligence is only as good as its algorithms, after all. Meanwhile, some fellow named Elon Musk is giving millions of dollars to people researching ways to keep AI from escaping us, and that much money is bound to get the world a pretty nice leash. It would seem, then, that perhaps we ought to concern ourselves more with how we contribute to our own demise than how AI could kill us all. That too is a comforting thought.
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photo credit: ieet.org