Artificial intelligence can be a contentious issue. Depending on who you talk to, it could either save the world or destroy humanity. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Is it a moot point? Are we already past the point of being able to live without AI? In this post, we’ll look into these issues.
The History of AI
The concept of AI has been around for a lot longer than you might think. The Turing Test, the current standard used to determine if a computer is clever enough to pass for human, is already over sixty years old.
It was only in 2014, according to the BBC, that a chatbot was said to have beaten the test, but the concept itself is nothing new. It was more so that we just haven’t had the tech to make it a reality until very recently.
Progress with the actual implementation of AI was pretty slow. One of the industry pioneers, Herbert Simon famously said in 1965 that machines would be capable of doing what a human could within the next twenty years.
This forecast proved a little over optimistic, but machine learning took a significant step forward in 1997 when Deep Blue beat world chess champion, Gary Kasparov. This landmark event gave us a glimpse of the real potential of AI and things started progressing from there.
Fast forward until today, and AI is something that many of us use every day. Driverless cars may not be that widespread just yet, but there are a number of algorithms that make use of AI. Whenever you run a Google search, for example, you’re using AI.
The fact is that there are many potential applications. We’re not going to go into them here, because they’ve been covered pretty thoroughly in the infographic, but there is definitely a lot of potential there.
What we’re interested in here, though, is whether or not we need to start preparing for a Terminator-style apocalypse, or whether we can look forward to an idyllic Star Wars-like era of cooperation between machines and humans.
Let’s take a look at the arguments for, and against AI.
The Case for AI
On the one hand, we have people like Mark Zuckerberg who are optimistic about the future of AI.
There’s no doubt that there are many benefits. Setting aside the flashier advances, like self-driven vehicles, there are a lot of practical applications for this tech. Let’s consider the diagnosis of disease as one potential area.
A doctor is highly skilled, but their experience can be limiting. They might misdiagnose someone because they have no experience with a rare disease, or when the person is presenting less common symptoms. There are several resources that a doctor can check, but checking through all of them would be prohibitively time-consuming.
Doctors need to make judgment calls, and, while they do excellent work, their own experiences and preconceptions could get in the way. Say, for example, that they’ve got a patient who they know to be a hypochondriac. They might be more inclined to the view that it’s all in the patient’s head.
AI, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same limitations. You could plug the symptoms in, and it could come up with potential diagnoses based on a wide range of sources in minutes. Now, you would still need your doctor to choose which diagnosis fits best, but AI could be a valuable part of the diagnostic procedure.
Also, the computer will make decisions based purely on the facts available. It won’t be swayed by past experiences or any preconceived notions about the patient. After all, Tesla Motors is the perfect example of how usage of AI and IoT can be beneficial for the whole car industry.
The Case Against AI
People like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have voiced concerns about AI advancing faster than our ability to control it. Some feel that over-reliance on machines could prove to be our downfall. After all, what happens if some catastrophic event wipes out all the machines?
To be fair, this is a well-grounded fear—think about the last time your bank servers went down, as an example. You had no access to your money and no way of querying anything with the bank. A scenario where every machine in the world is disabled, however, doesn’t seem all that likely, though. And, if you were in a situation where another country managed to disrupt all the machines in your country, you’d have bigger things to worry about.
Now let’s move onto a Terminator-style situation. Could that really happen? To be honest, this scenario is probably more likely than every machine in the world being disabled. But is it a real concern, or more the stuff of a horror movie?
Let’s look at this logically—because that’s what a machine would do. Would the pros of wiping out the human race really outweigh the cons? Would computers want to attempt world domination? If they’re all about logic and reasoning, we probably don’t have to worry about computer overlords, do we?
Is This All a Moot Point?
While this debate is interesting, let’s face the facts—it’s pretty much a moot point anyway. AI is already forming an integral part of our daily lives. We rely on it for so much already, and machine learning is advancing apace.
Overall, the question of whether machines will take over or not is not all that valid—could you imagine your life without AI? Unless you want to live in a cave in the back of beyond, it’s probably time to acknowledge that AI is here to stay.