As our society continues to explore the realm of artificial intelligence, we must be prudent in acknowledging the inevitable dangers to come.
Science fiction has transfixed people of all ages. As children we play with robots and watch films of an impending alien invasion and mankind’s fight for survival. And in each movie, humanity wins – but a fight is on the horizon that we cannot win and that we must prepare for to the best of our ability.
“Artificial intelligence”: two words that, at first glance, seem cool. Who wouldn’t be elated at the prospect of intelligent machines? For example, machines that can think rationally and independently; ones who can perceive our words and interact with us. This audial and optical recognition is one of the many benefits of current artificial intelligence, and if we were to end our research here – if we would limit AI to its most primitive form – there would be no worry.
But we won’t stop. We are a curious species that feed off of our need to intellectually evolve. Curiosity killed the cat, and in this case, it might kill us.
While a whole field within computer science is dedicated to AI, numerous universities have their own centres devoted to installing intelligence into machines. While this is no bad thing, we must be prudent. Eventually, AI will be able to make decisions for themselves. Eventually, AI will be able to think for themselves about complex issues – maybe even moral ones – at a speed faster than we can comprehend. Just like we acknowledge someone who is better than us at a certain skill, we must acknowledge that AI will become more intelligent than us – and that should scare us. For example, scientists at Northwestern University have already built an AI that outperforms most adults in a standard intelligence test, and some AIs have begun to communicate amongst themselves. AI is no longer at the point of the simple storage of implanted information. Now, AI is beginning to learn and develop, and that trend will only continue to flourish.
When AI does become more intelligent than us – and some, including Google’s director of engineering, argue it is only 12 years away – we do not want to be standing dumbfounded with our jaws hanging on the floor. If these predictions are accurate, this version of AI will be able to learn from their experience, flirt, and delve into our own language. In other words, they will be able to naturally interact with us and that invites both excitement and fear; fear that once AI can think better and faster than us, they will take over the world, but that is a construct that is limited to our television screens. It is more likely that AI will begin to notice our inherent flaws: our species’ lethargy; our unexplainable hatred towards one another; and, most importantly, our inability to act. Once the machines realise that they are not cursed with the same qualities as their creators, AI will have the capability to create their own and split away from a species that differs so vastly from themselves.
Humans will no longer be the ultimate species on this planet. Let me reiterate: We will, in a matter of decades, no longer be the ultimate species. Humans and AI will live separate lives, and one can only hope that we do not start a conflict that makes us enemies with beings that are superior to us. The irony would be drastic, and we would likely lose the battle.
What can we do to prepare? How does humanity prepare for the looming arrival of our own creation that will surpass our own intelligence? We don’t. That is the harsh truth: We cannot stop our own lust for progress – even if it creates intelligence superior to our own. The creation of AI will take a toll on our own economic and scientific development: Once AI is able to outmaneuver us, our investments in the stock market – a stock market that will be predictable to the AI – will be inconsequential. We will see a decrease in the labor workforce, as AI will do the work equivalent to a myriad of human workers, and companies will fight for computer employment. In later stages, the field of science itself will become trivial compared to the discoveries AI will be able to uncover in a short period of time. Even the battlefield will change: AI could usher in a second Cold War, setting off a global race for a war-ready AI that could outflank the enemy efficiently.
“There is no reason and no way that a human mind can keep up with an artificial intelligence machine by 2035.” – Gray Scott
For now, artificial intelligence is beneficial: it can aid us with the suicide epidemic; with global agriculture; and continuing to beat the greatest grandmasters at chess. While artificial intelligence was deemed cool by pop culture, now it is becoming an inevitable threat after each passing day. We should not be alarmed; instead, we should be prepared. By starting conversations on the topic of man and machine, we can invest time into the upcoming age of artificial intelligence in the hopes that we can lessen any symptoms from the unknown. We will soon live in a world where our children will no longer have to imagine what might be right in front of them.