The dangers and potential of artificial intelligence


Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a topic that has been getting a lot of attention in the past couple of years. Some famous, highly educated people have been warning us about the dangers of AI. Among them are Elon Musk, Steven Hawking and most recently Bill Gates.

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”
– Elon Musk (At the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium)

“I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”
– Stephen Hawking (BBC interview)

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”
– Bill Gates (Reddit “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” thread)

It has not just been warnings in interviews, symposiums and online fora. Hawking, Musk and others contributed to an open letter, posted to the future of life institute, warning about the dangers of AI.

Besides the highly educated mentioning AI, the entertainment industry has been contributing to the discussion as well. There are several movies (e.g. Transcendence, Avengers: age of ultron) and video games (e.g. Destiny) showing the dangers and potential of artificial intelligence.

But what is so dangerous about artificial intelligence, and why the sudden increase in global interest? The biggest risk is the uncertainty of what an AI would do. Emotions, even though we are quite rational, have a big impact on our daily decision making. An AI would be a completely rational being. For example: humans would never choose to kill of half the population, just because the data shows it would be beneficial. An AI would likely have no trouble making such decisions. There might actually be a point where it would consider humanity useless. A being that has all the computational power in the world, who does not like us, could be incredibly dangerous. This is one of the major reasons that so many people are concerned about AI development.

Besides the above mentioned risks, there is a lot of potential. Think of a consciousness with so much more computational power. The development and research that this AI could perform is so much faster than we humans can. Making AI is probably our best bet for immortality, could lead to huge economical progress and so much more.

I personally believe creating artificial intelligence, to the point of consciousness, would be equal to creating an actual deity (god). The result will either be the start golden age, the likes of which we have not seen before, or human extinction.

This leaves us with one big question: should we pursue artificial intelligence knowing the risks and potential?

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About Jord

Student @ BIM RSM 421144js

2 responses to “The dangers and potential of artificial intelligence”

  1. 437197dv says :

    I agree with you that AI is an interesting topic. What makes it even more interesting is that technological geeks such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking are so concerned about this topic. I mean, those guys are after all the ones that could know it, being pioneers in technology (and Hawking in just basically understanding everything in the world).

    At this point I don’t yet believe in a Skynet scenario for the world, where we will get overruled by machines and will be exterminated. However, as AI gets smarter and smarter, it will outperform us in the future somewhere. Whether this will have positive or negative implications is of course up to us.

    If the AI will be developed in certain boundaries, it might be possible to end up living side by side with machines. As many stated, these machines will learn at such a speed that they will outsmart us in the end. We should probably make sure that there is some kind of ‘killswitch’ for when it goes wrong, or atleast program such a scenario in the AI that humans can never lose control.

    This discussion can go on and on, as everyone thinks that AI is unlimited. So speculations about how far it will reach, are endless as well.
    I will just let myself be amazed by the development of AI, as it could definitely serve us well in all kinds of industries. Especially the health care industry would enjoy major benefits of supersmart AI machines analyzing cancer, AIDS, and other major health threats.

    BTW, this article is pretty interesting too, it gives some more insights on AI: http://thebulletin.org/artificial-intelligence-really-existential-threat-humanity8577

    • Jord says :

      Interesting insights! However I do not quite agree with your idea about a “killswitch”. If we would want to make full use of the potential of sentient AI(s), we would have to leave the controlled environments, and connect them to the internet. At that point there is no longer any option for a killswitch, as the AI is no longer limited to certain hardware.
      Of course we could keep AI development within closed environments, but even then there is potential for AIs to get “loose”. I have read about other AI scientists (will try to find my source on this) worried that “dumb” AIs, as in: non-sentient, could develop on their own. There are even people worried at the off chance we could accidentally create an AI by simple using the internet.

      Like you said, speculation is endless, we will just have to see what happens!

      Thanks for your comment.

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