Artificial Intelligence: A Blessing or a Curse?
Imagine if engineers could build a super-hot robot that can guess what you’re thinking and then meet all your needs before you even ask? A domestic service robot that can bring you an ice-cold beer after a long day at work might be just a little ways down the road, but computer-based Artifical Intelligence (AI) software that anticipates your needs is already here. AI is simply software that learns from your patterns of use. There are concepts for AI that can be pretty complex. But some very simple forms of AI have already been around for a while. You might not think of it as AI, but the spell-check on your iPhone is the beginning of the development path toward very sophisticated AI. Virtual personal assistant software like Siri from Mac, Cortana from Microsoft and GoogleNow are the next step down that road. Where might the AI road take us as a society? Some pretty powerful, intelligent people have been wondering very publicly whether eventually AI-empowered computers will become our merciless overlords instead of docile servants. It seems that two visions of the future of AI are coming into focus: one, an idyllic scene of friendly computers that help us; and the other, a dystopic nightmare of autonomous killers.
“Autonomous Weapons” – Killer Robots on the Loose?
An autonomous weapon is a specific application of AI software joined with military hardware that can “select and engage targets without human intervention.” Recently, some of the most prominent thinkers in the fields of science, engineering and information technology issued a letter warning the world about the coming danger of autonomous weapons. Signatories to the letter included Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak among many other tech luminaries. The letter warns that autonomous weapons will be feasible “within years, not decades.” The global risk is of a widespread arms race and general proliferation of autonomous weapons. The letter warns that autonomous weapons, unlike nuclear weapons, will be relatively cheap to produce and do not require “costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials.” These autonomous weapons could get up to some very bad behavior: “Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.” The letter concludes by advocating a global ban on autonomous weapons, preserving AI research and development for peaceful uses.
Siri, Cortana and GoogleNow: An Exciting Future
The future of AI need not be so gloomy, though. Major tech companies are cooking up some very exciting projects that will eventually make a huge beneficial impact for ordinary people. These days, it is already possible to use a virtual personal assistant to make dinner reservations, plot a trip on the highway, write an email – all with your voice alone. The AI software that powers these applications is growing more sophisticated and more intuitive all the time, making it ever easier to do what you want to do with your computer. The truly exciting thing to think about is the interaction of the AI software that powers the virtual assistant and the computer’s hardware. Verbal commands and auditory response are making the interface with a computer more mobile and more flexible. Screens and keyboards are becoming obsolete. Combine this with the increasing miniaturization of hardware and “wearable devices” start to look truly game-changing! There are exciting things you can be doing with a virtual personal assistant right now. If you’re curious about the possibilities, contact us.