Artificial intelligence technology has advanced leaps and bounds in a relatively short period of time. What once seemed like science fiction is quickly becoming a reality. The sudden advancement in the technology has reawakened some fears about what artificial intelligence could mean for the future of humankind. Those speaking up about the dangers of artificial intelligence aren’t just conspiracy theory whack-jobs either. Recently, Stephen Hawking, arguably one of the most brilliant minds of the last century and Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, have both voiced concerns about the future of artificial intelligence.
Should we fear artificial intelligence?
According to Hawking, real artificial intelligence could bring about the end of the human race faster than global warming or any other threat to mankind. Hawking theorizes that AI could redesign itself at an exponential rate far beyond what humans have the ability to keep up with. Because computers aren’t limited in the same ways that humans are, they could very quickly surpass humanity.
Elon Musk agrees with Hawking but it quick to point out that true artificial intelligence is still quite a ways away. While there have been many impressive advancements in the field of artificial intelligence in recent years, we are nowhere near being able to create artificial intelligence capable of becoming more intelligent than humans.
Google’s conversational modeling AI
A major obstacle that needs to be overcome to create true artificial intelligence is conversational modeling. While computers have long been able to perform complex calculations far faster than any human, they struggle to perform tasks humans handle with ease such as forming and comprehending spoken language. Most artificial intelligence systems out there can only handle this task as it applies to limited subjects.
Google has been working on an AI system that could change all of that. The difference between Google’s AI and other artificial intelligence systems is that Google has not only added in domain specific data sets but general domain data sets as well. The idea behind this is that Google’s AI can understand a variety of questions on various subjects and give proper responses. In a recent test of the AI’s abilities, she (the artificial intelligence referred to itself as a “she”) was able to carry on a basic conversation including greetings and various pleasantries. She was also able to answer simple questions, including questions about general information such as whether cats have tails or wings. Finally, the AI even handled some questions relating to philosophy such as “What is the purpose of life?”
In summary, perhaps Hawking said it best, while artificial intelligence may be able to pose a threat to humankind within the next 100 years, current AI systems are proving to be very useful tools for humans. To benefit from it without being threatened by it, there will need to be regulations in place so that humans can’t bring about their own destruction.