AI – Risks and Benefits

By | October 5, 2016

Only a few days ago, it was announced that Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft have come together to create the Partnership on AI. Almost at the same time, Microsoft announced expanding its AI efforts with creation of new Microsoft AI research group consisting of 5000 people worldwide and Amazon offered a $2.5M Alexa prize for an AI that can chitchat for 20 minutes!

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Putting these side by side to other emerging technologies such as Big Data, Cloud Computing, IOT and 3D printers, it would remind many of us of the “Terminator” or even “Matrix” movies and the possibilities of what is named as “AI takeover” (machines defeating and taking over humans).

While there are many hot discussions these days about the moral and ethical aspects of AI as well as its risks and dangers, in this Article I would try to share some ideas from an engineer’s point of view.

What is AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

In the shortest definition, Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. Some of main goals in AI are natural language processing, learning and self-evolving, reasoning, and planning.

While AI has been a hot topic since the early days of inventing computers and the term was mentioned as early as 1950s.

However with the increased computer processing power especially through Cloud computing, access to large amounts of data (Big Data), and advances in programming techniques, AI is now back on the scenes stronger than ever, and with daily fascinating achievements.

However, at the end they are sophisticated software applications developed by humans to do tasks faster and with less error.

Pictured below is Google’s self-driving car using artificial intelligence.

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Pictured below is Sony’s Artificial Intelligence Robot (AIBO) robotic pets.

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RoboCup is the leading and largest competition for intelligent robots, and one of the world’s most important technology events in research and training for artificial intelligence.

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Risks and Dangers

The core reasoning for fears and doubts spread around AI can be summarized as below:

  • By giving self-learning, reasoning, and self-evolving capabilities to machines, who can guarantee that these machines will not reach conclusions not initially predicted by their designers resulting into fatal actions?
  • With the integration of AI with technologies such as IOT and 3D printers, the impact of AI software is not limited to software world anymore – such AI software solutions can actually make physical impacts and take control in real world.
  • Who can guarantee what hackers or bad guys can do with such complicated technology?

Benefits of AI

On the other hand, supporters list all the unbelievable opportunities and benefits that can be provided by enhancement of AI:

  • Unbelievable acceleration of calculation and analysis of huge amounts of data, helping us to make faster and more accurate decisions.
  • Saving human lives by preventing human errors like the case of self-driving cars preventing accidents.
  • Doing the consistent, repetitive tasks in mass quantities without getting tired or being affected by personal emotions.
  • Enabling a much easier and human-like interaction with computers and access to information.

Conclusion

Like any other technology, AI can serve or harm humans based on how it is utilized. The more sophisticated the technology, the more it can impact our lives positively or negatively.

Hence there is a very good reason for why Partnership on AI is so important and necessary and just on right time: if it is not quickly regulated with the needed frameworks and safety procedures, we should all fear about the outcomes of its rapid advancements. Such rare partnership formations once embraced by large population of interested parties, would on the other hand provide the needed means to ensure it would be secured as a new instrumental and very effective tool for improving human life and nothing to fear of.

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