AI and super-intelligent robots: A threat?
Sept. 21, 2015
by Mark Ollig

“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded,” said famed theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, while commenting about artificial intelligence (AI) with the BBC News last year.

He also gave this disturbing warning: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Hawking is one of the most intelligent individuals on this planet; so people take notice when he speaks.

Last week, BBC News science editor David Shukman, held an hour long Facebook/Twitter question and answer session on the subject of artificial intelligence.

Many online users had questions and comments concerning AI.

Shukman’s reply to one Facebook question said we should develop AI with “a proper conscience,” and should model an AI brain with that of a human, in order to make sure it has “an in-built sense of ethical behavior.”

One questioner submitted that AI robots could not only be more intelligent than people, but also “kinder” as well.

Shukman wondered whether “kindness” is a uniquely human trait.

Personally, I think kindness is for everyone, including artificially intelligent robots.

Another commented on how he remembered watching a documentary promoting the benefits to humanity of AI, and that he is still waiting to see those benefits.

Yours truly posted the following to Mr. Shukman:

“Whenever I think of robots uprising over humans, I recall the 1920’s play “Rossum’s Universal Robots” and the Star Trek original series episode “The Ultimate Computer,” where humans had confrontations with threatening advanced artificial intelligence. I read Stephen Hawking does not foresee a positive outcome of mixing AI and humans. Do you see these types of AI versus humans’ scenarios playing out, or will humans and intelligent robots learn to peacefully co-exist in the future?”

Shukman responded; “Really interesting to see this question in terms of culture and whether we’re programmed to react negatively to the ‘threat’ of new machines. It’s ironic how rapidly we actually adjust to new machines if we find them convenient.”

He then made an analogy: “Think of automated check-in at airports and check-out machines at supermarkets - they can drive us crazy but in a matter of years we’ve started to adjust. So co-existence is certainly an option.”

Shukman ended his message to me with; “What no one can tell is what happens if we cross a line and AI can start to improve itself and achieve superiority in brainpower.”

I agree.

When AI systems begin to write their own code to improve themselves on a continuous basis, how intelligent could an AI mechanism ultimately become?

Would they begin to act independently, and no longer need human intervention?

How will we respond if an AI robot, or other AI technology, begins to achieve self-awareness and starts to question human authority or reasoning?

We are closer to these situations than one might think.

On June 7, 2014, an AI program apparently passed the Turing Test (a test in which a machine engages in a natural conversation with a human who thinks they are talking with another person).

This test was first proposed by computer scientist Alan Turing in a 1950 article he wrote titled: “Computing Machines and Intelligence.”

During the Turing Test competition held at the Royals Society in London, a third of the judges were convinced they were having a conversation with 13-year-old Eugene Goostman, when in fact; they were conversing with an artificial intelligent software program known as a chatterbot.

The Eugene Goostman AI computer program was developed in St. Petersburg, Russia, by Eugene Demchenko, and Vladimir Veselov.

“Will a robot take your job?” is the title of a recent BBC News article which includes a program for querying the odds of whether AI automation will eventually replace your job position.

I typed in “writer” and the results showed a 33 percent chance of AI ultimately automating the jobs of “authors, writers, and translators.”

When I entered “housekeepers and related occupations” the results said there was a 94 percent chance this area would become automated by AI technology.

The website lists 365 job titles to choose from.

Find out about your job’s chances of becoming automated here: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-bbc1.

Shukman sent me an interesting Massachusetts Institute of Technology video, featuring a discussion with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Musk talks about the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, traveling to Mars, and his thoughts on the “threatening dangers of artificial intelligence if not contained.”

This hour-long video can be seen at: http://tinyurl.com/bytes-Musk.

David Shukman can be followed on Twitter via: @davidshukmanbbc.

Will we end up creating super-intelligent robots and other AI technologies, which eventually rise up, organize, and take dominion over us, thus spelling doom and gloom for all humanity?

Or, will our future with AI be beneficial; whereby this intelligence acclimates to our best human traits, and assists us in improving the quality of life for all the people living in this world.

Stay tuned.

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