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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become its own sub-genre of movie. In every category from dystopian future to love movies there is an AI movie associated with that category. In 2020 there are numerous ways in which we utilize the power of AI and machine learning on a daily basis: from GPS and ride sharing apps, to mobile banking, social media and online shopping.
Before we know it, we will have self-driving cars, smart cities, and eventually full-blown anthropomorphic robots. And as far fetched as it may sound, we are lot closer to that reality than we may think, and some of our greatest minds have already been sounding the alarm.
In 2014 renowned Physicist Stephen Hawking said that:
The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.
Tesla founder Elon Musk has been very vocal about his pessimism towards AI saying things like “it’s more capable of vastly more than almost anyone knows and the rate of improvement is exponential”, and that it can be likened to “summoning the demon”.
Even Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson shares the opinion of the aforementioned saying:
…If you locked AI in a box, it would get out. My gosh, it gets out every time. Before I was thinking, ‘This is America, AI gets out of control, you shoot it’… but that does not work, because AI might be in a box, but it will convince you to let it out.
It would appear that like fossil fuel and climate change, the internet and newspapers/books, and amazon and brick and mortar stores, AI could potentially follow in the same steps of its predecessors and leave a path of destruction in its wake. The question then becomes how detrimental are the draw backs of AI?
The Potential of AI
As a foundational premise let’s identify artificial intelligence using John McCarthy’s definition (he coined the phrase Artificial Intelligence):
“any task performed by a program or machine that, if a human carried out that same activity, we would say the human had to apply intelligence to accomplish the task”.
AI resembles human intelligence in that it plans, learns, reasons, problem solves, perceives, manipulates, has social intelligence, and creates.
ANI AGI and ASI
There are various types of AI including Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), and Artificial Super intelligence (ASI).
ANI is a machine/program that specializes in one task. These are ads on Facebook, voice assistants, and Netflex movie recommendations.
AGI is comparable to that of a human. It has the capability to do various tasks as well as learn and improve on its abilities. The technology is not fully developed yet, but it is growing at an increasingly fast rate.
As of the writing of this post humanoid robots like Bina, Sophia, and Philip have been created by Hanson Robotics, and exhibit human like qualities.
ASI is a concept of intelligence that is more sophisticated than human intelligence. This is currently an unfathomable feat in science, but technological trends suggest that will not be the case for long.
We have been exposed to ASI in movies like Blade Runner (1982), The Matrix (1999), The Terminator series (1984-2019), I, Robot (2004), and Her (2015).
Exponential growth is rapid growth in proportion to the growing total. The best way to describe it is, a number times itself: 2 x 2 = 4, 4 x 4 = 16, 16 x 16 =256, so on and so forth.
As this relates to AI, its unique feature is that it has the capability to grow exponentially in data processing power. This means that not only will AI eventually be able to take in more information than we can, but it will also be able to do it faster.
A Post Human Era
This type of processing power is hypothesized to become “The Technological Singularity”, A point in history at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible.
In a Ted Talk done by David Simpson, a post human novelist, he suggests that this could be a reality within the next 10 years. Simpson believes the world could have ASI by 2030, and the ability to create it will proliferate soon after, to the point where anyone will have the ability to have access to it.
This type of technology at such a scale will allow for Humans to integrate with technology like never before from nano machinery, to augmented reality in our minds. I know its kind of difficult to comprehend, but that is the point, once we get to that level of computing power, life as we will know it is unimaginable.
We will have either fashioned ourselves into gods by ruling over our creation, or we will have fashioned gods for ourselves by being subservient to it. This is the concern of people like Steven Hawking, Elon Musk, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson; in either scenario there is no positive outcome.
The purpose of technology has always been to make the lives of humans easier and more convenient. Traveling by foot or horse was insufficient so we created the car. Sending messages was a hassle, so we created the telephone and eventually instant messaging and email.
At what point does being human become inconvenient?
Of all the good that AI can do it can also wreak enough havoc where some of the greatest scientists in the world came together to write an open letter warning researchers. Will this backwards attempt to know our creator fail miserably? Only time and data will tell.