The Reality of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence was once a mere dream, something to look forward to in a distant future with hover-cars and powdered water. It was the stuff of science fiction, however, not everyone imagined something so entertaining as The Jetsons.

1982’s “Bladerunner” (based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) presents a dystopian nightmare where robots revolt against humanity. HAL in “2001 A Space Odyssey”  turns on his masters. The more contemporary “Ex Machina” brings us yet another robot unable to be controlled by her creator.

In a world where Siri can give you directions to the nearest Chipotle, most of us dismiss these stories as the paranoid yammerings of a small group of weirdos.

However, artificial intelligence (or AI) is developing at a faster rate than most people expected. Soon, robots will be a more prominent fact of our existence- and we are ill prepared to deal with that reality.

Robots are Outperforming Humans

Human intelligence is already starting to lose out to artificial intelligence as technology progresses. MIT researchers developed a machine for big data analysis- and it has consistently out performed human intuition.  Algorithms that took humans months to develop came back from the machine in between 2 and 12 hours.

While this particular example doesn’t appear to be particularly menacing, it does represent a trend: artificial intelligence is outperforming humans.

Artificial intelligence could present economic complications for humans as well. A Pew Study reported that, unless we change the way we educate our children, robot workers will create a permanent underclass that will be unable to compete for jobs.

That is to say, our school system generally trains children to be good factory workers. “And education systems in the US and much of the rest of the world are still sitting students in rows and columns, teaching them to keep quiet and memorize what is told to them, preparing them for life in a 20th century factory,” Howard Rheingold told Pew.

“There will be a labor market in the service sector for non-routine tasks that can be performed interchangeably by just about anyone—and these will not pay a living wage—and there will be some new opportunities created for complex non-routine work, but the gains at this top of the labor market will not be offset by losses in the middle and gains of terrible jobs at the bottom,” said Justin Reich, a Harvard University fellow at its Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

In short, if our school system doesn’t begin producing above-average graduates capable of critical thinking, robots are “certain to lead to an increase in income inequality, a continued hollowing out of the middle class, and even riots, social unrest, and/or the creation of a permanent, unemployable ‘underclass,'” said the Pew report.

Robots are a Danger to Human Life

Steven Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk, among others, published an open letter calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons.” They suggest that robots on the battlefield are not a good plan for the future of humanity.

Hawking has gone on record several times, warning that AIs could potentially destroy human existence.

“It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

So, go ahead, ask Siri if you should be worried about the impending robot Apocalypse. She’ll probably call me a weirdo. However, I would urge you to consider what may lie ahead for humanity as we continue to develop technology without considering the ethical, moral, or future implications.



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