Artificial intelligence will either be the best or worst thing to happen to humanity. Right now we do not which one it will be. This is the latest warning from one of the greatest living physicists, Stephen Hawking. As the world moves quickly to smart machines what happens when they become smarter than us?
Stephen Hawkings talks about the potential benefits and danger of artificial intelligence at a conference in China
Dr. Hawking was recently interviewed in China during a conference dedicated to using A.I. to improve humanity and the environment regarding his latest thoughts on the subject. It is interesting that environment is one of the focus points for an A.I. conference but keep in mind that air pollution in China is now one of their largest societal concerns. So why not let artificial intelligence try to solve it for us?
What Dr. Hawkings goes on to say about an artificial intelligence future?
The progress on A.I. is swift and maybe we should take a pause and make sure that we are focusing it on maximizing societal benefits.
There are so many compelling reasons to pursue artificial intelligence from space exploration to climate change and healthcare. The fundamental caution is that A.I. systems must do what we want them to do.
Everything that has been achieved so far has been because of the human brain. Hawkings believes that there is no difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer. This is a very strong statement that shows how firmly he believes in our capability to take A.I. forward. In fact, he goes on to say,
It, therefore, follows that a computer can, in theory, emulate human intelligence and exceed it.
He also brings up the very real concern that smart machines will be able to take over my tasks currently performed by humans and swiftly destroy millions of jobs. Just look at what is happening with autonomous vehicle development which absolutely relies on A.I. All of the major auto manufacturers, plus car sharing companies and even companies like Google are spending millions if not billions of dollars of development. Once mature this technology will mean we no longer need humans to drive taxis, deliver goods or even fly planes. This alone represents the loss of millions of jobs and this is due to the most rudimentary level of A.I.
Experts are warning that if we allow A.I. to exceed that of human intelligence, the next step is that it will start to design and improve itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans that limited in development by slow biological evolutionary processes could not compete and would be superseded
At the very least this will bring great disruption to the global economy. If A.I. at some point develops a will of its own, a will that will be in conflict with ours. What does this mean for mankind?
With the best intentions, we are rushing into this brave new world without any real constraints or understanding of what it might bring. In 2015 Dr.Hawkings and entrepreneur Elon Musk ( Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity )along with many other prominent scientists signed an open letter warning of the dangers of A.I. and calling for a study on the impact to society.
It is currently believed that the pace of A.I. development is such that we will soon start to see great changes in society. The potential for A.I. is so great that Hawkings believes the eradication of disease and poverty is not unfathomable.
In the negative column is the potential for A.I. in warfare. Should the development of autonomous weapons from entities such as DARPA in the US, be banned altogether? There is a trend starting with drones to prefer to kill enemies remotely with directly risking soldiers lives. This thinking, when combined with artificial intelligence, is leading us to armies of robot soldiers and warfare conducted at a distance.
DARPA robotic cheetah gets even faster
In reality, we are a long way down this road right now, probably further than we know because I am sure it is classified. Just what is available to the public as far as research information is shocking enough. Add this to the fact that most of the funding for A.I. research is coming from the military.
The autonomous robot soldier is soon to be here thanks to artificial intelligence
The mechanics of a robot given today’s level of mechanical and electrical engineering are the easy part. What really makes takes them from a machine to an android it the software and this means A.I.
For example watch, this small video taken about one year ago about that shows the current state of the art for autonomous robot soldiers.
Dr. Hawkings is trying to meet these challenges head-on. In October of 2016, he started an organization in Cambridge England to address the rapid rise of artificial intelligence.He is also optimistic that we can develop this new technology in a safe way and perhaps undo some of the damage done to the natural world from industrialization.