The Artificial Intelligence Game: Disruption or Destruction?

Science-fiction has long been seen as a precursor for science-fact, and one such entity that’s expected to make this transition within our lifetimes is Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Honda Asimo
There’s a real fear that AI-powered computers might one day move beyond the control of humans, which as we’ve seen in several movies always end badly for us. These concerns aren’t being raised by any conservatists or anti-tech bodies, but by – Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking – some of the brightest minds in the today’s science and tech worlds.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently joined the group of people who’s concerned about super intelligent computers. In a Reddit AMA session Gates said, “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern.”
From his statement we gather that the transition won’t be sudden, but given the increasing pace of research into AI, it won’t take that long for computers to actually become intelligent. Indicative of things to come is the already widespread use of preliminary AI, of which the Google Now digital assistant is a great example. It’s more of a context aware search and discovery engine right now, but it’s what most experts expect will grow into true AI.

On The Flipside

There is however another side to the AI argument. Andrew Ng, the chief scientist at China’s Baidu claims that people should be scared of AI, but not because it’ll trigger Terminator style pandamonium, but because it’ll replace you from your job.
The “second mechanical age” is in the making, and unlike the first one which took over two centuries to introduce mechanization in pretty much every aspect of human life, the AI revolution is expected to spread much faster. AI will accelerate the adoption of digital technologies, which in turn could leave millions of low and medium skilled workers behind.
The prospects of self-driving vehicles is already within reach, and just like how the tractor and combines replaced hoards of farmers driving oxen and horses, it will first revolutionize the long haul and then intra city transport. Self-driving technology could put millions of drivers out of jobs, and unlike the farming revolution will take just a matter of years to do so.
If AI does indeed displace millions of jobs, our current education system just isn’t up to scratch to retrain them, says Ng, who also co-founded online learning company Coursera. He however believes that the current talk about the creation of pandemonium inducing computers is baseless, and said, “it’s a distraction from the conversation about…serious issues.”
Artificial Intelligence, like pretty much every technological development does have drawbacks, but its lure of disrupting every aspect of human life is too great to give it up. We therefore have to turn to modernizing some of the underlying systems such as education and data security, in order to make sure the negative impacts of AI are least felt.
[image source: wikipedia]

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