In an interview with BBC in 2014, Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the leading theoretical physicists of the modern era, was quoted to have said: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”
Despite the daunting warnings and malice associated with artificial intelligence, you’d be surprised how ever present it has become in your life with every passing day. Apple’s personal assistant-Siri, Tesla’s self-driving cars, Amazon’s transaction AI, chat-bots, speech-recognition system are all successful implementations of Artificial Intelligence. However, the concept of AI in the case of these has been used to achieve what technology has been aiming to obtain for the past century- automation. Making machines self-sufficient in their operation is the industry’s next stepping stone and if AI is a powerful tool in achieving that, is it really as menacing as it is made out to be?
The argument to this would be that all the prior examples of AI are not the realization of the concept in its entirety. AI, according to one definition, is a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation. A vague description, but, what sets an Artificial Intelligence system apart from a simple computer system would perhaps be that it is cognitive and intelligent enough to choose and learn a course of action not specified in its original instruction set. A system of such a concept in the present appears to be decades away.
The type of AI often illustrated in pop-culture such as that in HBO’s Westworld and Ex-machina are only present in concept today, making them difficult to have a discourse on. However, technology is characterized by how it advances at unprecedented rates and it might not be long before such abstraction is manifested. The fact that AI is not a threat should not lead to ignorance and comfort. Stephen Hawking was aware of the prosperity of AI in recent times and was swift in reminding mankind of being wary in the designing of AI.
Another beautiful perspective on AI is the witty remark in tesler’s Theorem: “AI is whatever hasn’t been done yet”. Indeed, speech recognition, automated vehicles and smart bots were described as prime examples of artificial intelligence in the past, but with their normalization, they are slowly being identified out of the scope of AI. The threat from AI seems very distant even today. Instead, its applications have been incredibly beneficial in recent times for man. Mankind, by nature will explore everything that encompasses its curiosity and only time will tell how far we will reap the benefits of AI before it turns on us.