Genuine concerns about artificial intelligence

First posted December 3, 2014 7:08 pm

The idea that computers will one day turn on man is not far-fetched

Since the dawn of civilisation, mankind has been obsessed by the possibility that it will one day be extinguished. The impact of an asteroid on earth and the spectre of nuclear holocaust are the most prevalent millenarian fears of our age. But some scientists are increasingly of the view that a new nightmare must be added to the list. Their concern is that intelligent computers will eventually develop minds of their own and destroy the human race.

The latest warning comes from Professor Stephen Hawking, the renowned astrophysicist. He told an interviewer this week that artificial intelligence could “outsmart us all” and that there is a “near certainty” of technological catastrophe. Most non-experts will dismiss his claims as a fantasy rooted in science fiction. But the pace of progress in artificial intelligence, or AI, means policy makers should already be considering the social consequences.

The idea that machines might one day be capable of thinking like people has been loosely discussed since the dawn of computing in the 1950s. The huge amount of cash being poured into AI research by US technology companies, together with the exponential growth in computer power, means startling predictions are now being made.

According to a recent survey, half the world’s AI experts believe human-level machine intelligence will be achieved by 2040 and 90 per cent say it will arrive by 2075. Several AI experts talk about the possibility that the human brain will eventually be “reverse engineered.” Some prominent tech leaders, meanwhile, warn that the consequences are unpredictable. Elon Musk, the pioneer of electric cars and private space flight at Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has argued that advanced computer technology is “potentially more dangerous than nukes”.

Western governments should be taking the ethical implications of the development of AI seriously. One concern is that nearly all the research being conducted in this field is privately undertaken by US-based technology companies. Google has made some of the most ambitious investments, ranging from its work on quantum computing through to its purchase this year of British AI start-up Deep Mind. But although Google set up an ethics panel following the Deep Mind acquisition, outsiders have no idea what the company is doing – nor how much resource goes into controlling the technology rather than developing it as fast as possible. As these technologies develop, lack of public oversight may become a concern.

That said, the risk that computers might one day pose a challenge to humanity should be put in perspective. Scientists may not be able to say with certainty when, or if, machines will match or outperform mankind…


Top Transhumanism CEO Says AI Singularity Will Go ‘Very Badly For Humans’

Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind

Top Physicist predicts By 2045 ‘The Top Species Will No Longer Be Humans’

  • Jul. 5, 2014, 8:33 AM

terminator red eye rise of robotsTerminator

“Today there’s no legislation regarding how much intelligence a machine can have, how interconnected it can be. If that continues, look at the exponential trend. We will reach the singularity in the timeframe most experts predict. From that point on you’re going to see that the top species will no longer be humans, but machines.”

These are the words of Louis Del Monte, physicist, entrepreneur, and author of “The Artificial Intelligence Revolution.” Del Monte spoke to us over the phone about his thoughts surrounding artificial intelligence and the singularity, an indeterminate point in the future when machine intelligence will outmatch not only your own intelligence, but the world’s combined human intelligence too.

The average estimate for when this will happen is 2040, though Del Monte says it might be as late as 2045. Either way, it’s a timeframe of within three decades.

louis del monteScreenshot Louis Del Monte

“It won’t be the ‘Terminator’ scenario, not a war,” said Del Monte. “In the early part of the post-singularity world, one scenario is that the machines will seek to turn humans into cyborgs. This is nearly happening now, replacing faulty limbs with artificial parts. We’ll see the machines as a useful tool. Productivity in business based on automation will be increased dramatically in various countries. In China it doubled, just based on GDP per employee due to use of machines.”

“By the end of this century,” he continued, “most of the human race will have become cyborgs [part human, part tech or machine]. The allure will be immortality. Machines will make breakthroughs in medical technology, most of the human race will have more leisure time, and we’ll think we’ve never had it better. The concern I’m raising is that the machines will view us as an unpredictable and dangerous species.”

Del Monte believes machines will become self-conscious and have the capabilities to protect themselves. They “might view us the same way we view harmful insects.” Humans are a species that “is unstable, creates wars, has weapons to wipe out the world twice over, and makes computer viruses.” Hardly an appealing roommate.

He wrote the book as “a warning.” Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more capable, and we’re adopting it as quickly as it appears. A pacemaker operation is “quite routine,” he said, but “it uses sensors and AI to regulate your heart.”

A 2009 experiment showed that robots can develop the ability to lie to each other. Run at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne, Switzerland, the experiment had robots designed to cooperate in finding beneficial resources like energy and avoiding the hazardous ones. Shockingly, the robots learned to lie to each other in an attempt to hoard the beneficial resources for themselves.

“The implication is that they’re also learning self-preservation,” Del Monte told us. “Whether or not they’re conscious is a moot point.”