Science & Tech, World

Artificial Intelligence: The Benefits and the Dangers of AI

Developing Artificial Intelligence is one of those “extinction event” level events that few people think about. AI seems quite innocent, because most of our understanding of Artificial Intelligence comes from movies Star Wars, with wacky droids going on crazy adventures.

To understand Artificial Intelligence, we need to make sure we clear something up: AI does NOT mean robots. The two are not the same thing at all. Artificial Intelligence can be housed inside a robot body, but it is simply a program that is intelligent to a degree that a human could never be. And here’s why:

Artificial Intelligence: A Mind Totally Unlike Our Own…

Once again, here’s where Star Wars has messed up our conception of Artificial Intelligence. We assume that because C-3P0 and R2-D2 had very human characteristics, that AI will be much the same way. Or we assume that Artificial Intelligence is like a version of Siri or Cortana that is smarter. And hears you correctly the first time you ask it something.

The thing is, Artificial Intelligence will not be anything like our fictional concepts of it. And the reason is that AI will not be human at all. It won’t have any characteristics in common with the human mind.

Brilliant Artificial Intelligence theorists are mostly philosophers, which is very fitting. Their study of AI development approaches it from a point of view that Artificial Intelligence will be an alien “lifeform” that we will have to study. Even though we created it. To assume it will be human-like at all is to gravely underestimate it.

But What’s the Big Deal with AI?

Since AI is something that we created, much of the fear-mongering around it is largely unfounded. But there is one thing that we should really watch out for when it comes to AI, and that is being VERY specific.

Think about it. Computers will take the path of least resistance. There many things about our minds that we take for granted. For example, let’s say that you were told to “keep someone safe.” What would you do? You would probably watch out for them, identify threats, and keep them away to the best of your ability.

Compare that to a computerized Artificial Intelligence system. The AI system would likely identify a solution like locking the person in a room, with food and water, and not letting them out. They are “safe,” but that is not what we meant.

Situations like that are the real danger that we would face from Artificial Intelligence. Evil AI is not a real concern because it’s not really possible for a computer to be “evil.” It’s just a tool. Theorists like Ray Kurzweil have cautioned scientists who are developing AI systems to take the utmost care and caution to program their systems leaving NO room for error at all.

Would AI Cause Mass-Unemployment?

The other concern is the massive-scale unemployment that would likely follow the development of AI. Right now, computers are very smart in some areas and not at all in others. For example, a computer can beat the world’s best chess player, but it can’t solve the little CAPTCHA things that protect websites. To be fair, I have trouble with those sometimes as well.

However, a computer system that was able to learn and gain humanoid reasoning ability would be essentially a replacement for humans in almost every area. Certain areas like art, persuasion, and music would likely stay 100% human, but investments, retail, and food could become 100% mechanical. Futurists like Peter Thiel believe that no such Artificial Intelligence will come forward before the 22nd century, so it may be a problem that is very far off anyway.

The Benefits of Artificial Intelligence

But enough with the more negative parts. The development of a well-programmed Artificial Intelligence system could solve the answers to most of the world’s problems. The current theory is that if we are able to make a computer as smart as a human (a point of intelligence called “the tripwire”) the AI system could make itself smarter by upgrading its hardware. It could learn more and more. Some theorists believe that it could attain an IQ of around 12,000 within a matter of weeks. We can’t even comprehend the processes that a 12K IQ would have. But the benefits would be amazing.

Solutions to pollution would be one question away, and then we could implement them. Solutions to clean up the environment, to make interstellar travel happen… We could have the answers to all the tech and computer problems we have today.

This Artificial Intelligence system would be called an “oracle,” and it’s acknowledged by most theorists to be the safest form of AI. This is what Google is currently developing. An oracle would be much like an advanced Google; you’d ask it questions, it would process them, and it would give an answer back. That way, it doesn’t go all Skynet on us, which may not even be possible anyway. So no worries.

The Future of AI

Truth be told, no one can honestly say definitively what Artificial Intelligence will or will not be. There’s a small chance it could be bad. Just be careful connecting it to the internet! But the potential downsides should not stop us from developing amazing technology like this. If we can create something that surpasses human intelligence, the environmental benefits alone will make it worth it. So don’t think HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey; think J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man. A super smart, personal helper. Because ultimately, computers are tools that we create. Their purpose is to help and thus are only as evil as their user.

About Caleb Smith

Caleb is a freelance writer and music student from the United States, with a passion for comic books, reading, and punk rock. He loves writing about often overlooked and under-reported stories to help raise awareness.

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