07 November 2016

Rolling Stone: “Inside the Artificial Intelligence Revolution (Pt. 1)”

As for the dangers of AI, LeCun calls them “very distant”. He believes the notion that intelligent machines will evolve with the trappings of human intelligence and emotion is a fallacy: A lot of the bad things that come out of human behavior come from those very basic drives of wanting to survive and wanting to reproduce and wanting to avoid pain. There is no reason to believe robots will have that self-preservation instinct unless we build it into them. But they may have empathy because we will build it into them so they can interact with humans in a proper way. So the question is, what kind of low-level drives and behaviors do we build into machines so they become an extension of our intelligence and power, and not a replacement for it?

On my way out of Facebook, I’m struck by how densely packed everyone is in the office – this is an empire of human beings and machines working together. It’s hard to imagine the future will be any different, no matter how sophisticated our robots become. Algorithms are designed and built by humans, and they reflect the biases of their makers, says Jaron Lanier, a prominent computer scientist and author. For better or worse, whatever future we create, it will be the one we design and build for ourselves. To paraphrase an old adage about the structure of the universe: It’s humans all the way down.

Jeff Goodell

According to Silicon Valley, Artificial Intelligence is the next big frontier of technological advancement – even though nobody’s quite sure how to achieve it or if it’s good or bad. Every time I read another article brimming with excitement about how great things will be I stop for a moment and remember travelling to the country here in Romania. Once you step out of the larger cities, every village and road here seems disconnected from the hectic flow of the world. It’s next to impossible to imagine how any advance in AI could change these places where even the Internet has a marginal effect; at some level this puts these discussions into perspective.

Personally, I’m not especially terrified by the extreme, doomsday by ’Skynet’ scenarios involving AI. I’m pretty sure the people designing the algorithms will take some level of precautions to restrict this outcome as much as humanly possible. I’m more concerned with the impact of ‘benign’ AI on society – specialized AI that can perform most of our current jobs better, faster, more accurately, with no need for rest, lunch breaks or vacations. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get an indefinite break from work, but how would I earn my living if I’m replaced by a piece of software? Even now, companies are starting to employ automated methods for candidates selection, in the process excluding the people that would need a job most. The current society doesn’t seem equipped to deal with massive unemployment, nor prepared to redistribute the income generated by AI to the rest of the population – especially across country borders.

Even more concerning: some forms of AI could even replace painters and musicians, mass-producing works of art indistinguishable from those of humans. In short, AI could, inside a generation, remove most of the activities that constitute our day-to-day living, leaving us without a purpose for existing. The most likely – and noxious – effect of generalized AI could be a massive epidemic of apathy and depression.

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