Artificial Intelligence – What Does the Future have in store for the Human Race?

artificial intelligence
Source - computerworld

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. This is perhaps the simplest definition of AI. Machines all around us are becoming more and more intelligent. We are researching this field and developing such machines in order to make everyday tasks easier and more efficient. When intelligent machines aid us in performing everyday tasks, our productivity increases and our lives become easier.

From SIRI to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence (AI) is progressing rapidly. Although in sci-fi movies, AI mostly implies robots that have human-like characteristics, AI is actually quite a broad term encompassing anything from Google’s search algorithms to IBM’s Watson to autonomous weapons.

Artificial intelligence can be divided into two basic categories: narrow AI and general AI. What we see all around us today in terms of AI is mostly narrow AI. It entails performing narrow tasks such as only facial recognition or only internet searches. General AI, on the other hand, is the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. Creating general AI is the main aim of many researchers and a common topic in science fiction and future studies.

Implications of Developing General Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has without a doubt improved our everyday existence and made many processes more efficient and has aided human beings in performing tasks faster, without imperfections. Rather than human beings checking security at airports and other sensitive locations, computers do the job now and they do it faster and better than human beings. The chances of error are almost negligible.

Self-driving cars are safer as compared to a human driving the same car. The chances of making a mistake are negligible. Our automated trading system is amazing, trains and airplanes can be flown on auto-mode now. Industrial computers work faster and more accurately as compared to human workers. In short, computers perform every task better than human beings thus making the overall system more efficient. The term ‘human error’ is omitted from the equation when humans are replaced by computers to perform a task.

All of the above examples are of narrow artificial intelligence in action. Consider now if machines start making decisions and start doing every single task a human can do. Machines will outperform humans, of course, just like they have in the case of narrow artificial intelligence. This is where artificial intelligence creates concerns in the minds of the common man and scientists and researchers alike.

What would happen if machines completely take over our world and perform every single task for us? The first concern that comes to mind is what will be our role in such a world. Where exactly would human beings fit in the world if they do not have anything to do? Could this make human beings a useless race? Another major concern is what if machines develop goals that are misaligned with ours. What would happen if humans lose control of the machines they have created? We have seen such scenarios in movies where super intelligent computers start wars of their own based on the machine’s calculations of a given scenario despite humans clearly against the task.

Although creating super-intelligent machines is considered as impossible by some, there are many researchers who think it will happen in the near future and we must start researching its implications and safety measures in order to make them work for our benefit rather than being a threat to our existence. Despite these concerns, there are many researchers who consider the prospect of super intelligent machines very exciting and promising for our future. In their opinion, such machines would be capable of solving the world’s problems, they might even help us eradicate war, disease, and poverty. Thus, the creation of general AI might be the biggest event in human history.

If we are able to create super-intelligent machines with all the benefits for the human race without its negative effects, it could be a game changer for the world. This would involve careful research and development of such machines. When people say super-intelligent machines could be devastating for the human race, it doesn’t really mean robots will turn evil. It just means that when a machine is tasked with a work, it will make sure to carry out that work no matter what comes in its way. And if a human being tries to stop the machine for any reason, it will only be considered a hurdle in the way of achieving the machine’s goal and might be harmed in the process.

Therefore, AI safety needs to be researched first and foremost in order to quell safety concerns and to make sure it only benefits our race and pose no harm as many people opine.

AI Safety

Scientists have expressed serious concern regarding the safety of developing general artificial intelligence in machines. Big names in science and technology such as Prof. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and many others have recently expressed concern about the risks posed by AI, joined by many leading AI researchers.

This sudden focus on AI safety is because general AI was always considered as impossible to achieve. But the recent technological breakthroughs in the field of AI and many AI milestones, which experts viewed as decades away merely five years ago, being reached, has grabbed the attention of scientists and researchers the world over.

Many experts now take seriously the possibility of superintelligence to be achieved in our lifetime. While some experts still guess that human-level AI is centuries away, most AI researchers think it is about to happen very soon.

According to the theoretical physicist Prof Stephen Hawking, efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence. He has stated, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

According to the Professor, artificial intelligence developed so far has proved greatly beneficial to us, but the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans could be devastating.

“It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

AI will not only destroy many jobs presently being performed by humans but might become a threat to the very existence of the human race.

According to Elon Musk, technology entrepreneur, AI is “our biggest existential threat”.

The debate is simple. Humans control the planet because we are the smartest race so far. There are many forces in the world that are stronger than us, many animals that are faster than us but we manipulate and utilize all of them to our benefit because they cannot match our capability of thinking. If we develop something that can outsmart us, we will lose that edge and might lose control. We might be dominated by the machines we created.

Therefore, the power of technology and more specifically super-intelligent machines will benefit us as long as we manage them smartly and keep them in our control.