Our Future with Artificial Intelligence

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I don´t know about you, but I´m fascinated by Artificial Intelligence.
Always have been.
I have watched a perceived 1000 films (from „bicentennial man“ to „terminator“) and read additional 20, 30 books about it.
A couple of months ago I went through a phase where I frequently spent my spare time communicating with so called chatter-bots, one of the more intelligent ones was, amusingly, Skynet , but even he mostly replied using typical phrases and his behaviour got pretty predictable after a very short time. But this pastime can be quite fun, so if you´re bored and have some time you could pick a bot here http://www.chatterbotcollection.com/ and chat for a bit.

conversation with skynet
(c) by skynet-ai.com


But to get to the actual subject.
At the current state of technology what we call „artificial intelligence“ is really rather „dumb“.
The mere imitation of human behaviour („weak AI“ like for example chatter-bots) hasn´t been accomplished to a sufficient degree yet might well be in the near future. Yes, the Turing Test has been passed, officially, but not indisputably so.
But the real goal of AI, the development of real intelligence („strong AI“ ) that is based on learning, is way harder to achieve.
Capabilities of AIs today to respond to their environment, use so called commonsense knowledge and to adapt are still quite limited, admittedly a great leap forward considering how long we´ve been at the development of AIs, but even so they can´t even compete with a four year old.

On the other hand research in this field is progressing rapidly, some forms of AI, for instance algorithms for user profiling on google, are already in commercial use and also development of „strong AIs“ doesn´t sleep.



So let´s get used to the thought that in only a couple of decades there may be „real“ AIs, that reach an extant of intelligence similar to humans.
Are we, as humanity, prepared for AI in everyday life? And I´m not talking about skynet scenarios here, but about much more subtle influences on our lives.

There already is a lot of discussing and actual testing going on regarding the uses of AI in dangerous or tedious work-environments. And I think this could be a sound idea, in principle.
From handling poisonous substances to work in retirement homes, robots are much more resistant and reliable than humans. Wait, poisonous substances, of course, but old people?
Well yes, it´s a very tough job, not everybody can endure it without physical or psychological damage, personnel is always short, old people are being neglected and mistreated and let´s be honest, there won´t be a shortage of old people in the near future. Somebody has to do the job and it is not looking good right now. So yes, I think AI in these fields has a lot of potential.

What´s rather worrying me is how society will handle the people who are not doing these jobs any more.

Let´s take a look at the industrial revolution:
Astonishingly it did not lead to wealth in the general population. Wage dumping and as a result poverty was more like it.

Even today many a job goes to automated systems, but yet we have an advantage towards machines – creative and independent thinking.
But when strong AI enters the job market we´ll loose this advantage bit by bit, massive upheaval in the world of work could be inevitable. So the question is how will we handle this situation.

The view on work today, as a basis of life and existence, would have to be reconsidered, its role in the pursuit of meaning in ones life highlighted and alternative means of ensuring a livelihood for everyone created.

Is it realistic to think that this will happen soon in achievement-oriented society? Probably not.
Let´s hope that the development of strong AI will take a good while.


But all right, let´s assume for a moment that we will be able to manage life at the side of intelligent machines and robots in a way that allows for social stability and everything else works out well too.
What does our further future in this machine-human utopia look like?
Us, being biological beings, we have quite narrow limits to the extent our evolution can develop.
Machines, on the other hand, they are not as limited by factors like ageing or the space their neurological networks can grow in as we are.
So it is very possible that they will overtake us shortly after having reached our stage of intelligence and knowledge. They become „superintelligent“.

And at this point we do come close to Skynet scenarios , because what a computer apprehends as solutions to certain problems is not necessarily what is good for human beings. We will have to take extreme care to implement a sound moral base into their programming, a very comprehensive one, they have to be „on our side“, a kind of enlarged set of asimovs laws of robotics.

This will not be an easy task, what with endless variables that have to be taken into account and endless scenarios that have to be simulated. Are we up to this and will we actually do that, dumb creatures that we often are, or will we move too fast, blinded be the prospect of profit and efficiency?


What gives me reason to doubt our ability to manage this kind of situation well is the fact that even today automated and „intelligent“ weapon systems are (depending on the area more or less intensively) already in use and many people have fallen victim to them.
Killing is being dehumanized and bit by bit it becomes more of a video game than a very complex and hard moral decision. How much will the inhibition level sink when we don´t have to make these decision at all any more?


And last but not least there´s the question of the rights such entities should have. When are sapient creatures, alive or not, entitled to basic rights like freedom of choice, personal fulfilment and reproduction? Hereof I won´t write too much, there are thousands of books and films concerning this matter, and this post is already becoming more of a little novel. But in this context I would very much like to recommend the film „Her“.


AI is an extremely enthralling subject we will have to consider in the not too far future, even though today it still sounds a lot like science fiction in many ways. But if we consider how “smart” googles algorithms are today we can imagine that “strong AI” won´t be long in coming.

How about you, who have actually read the post to the very end ;), Skynet or machine-human utopia?

And as a quick reminder how fast time goes by:

Icons: Abdullah Bin Laique


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