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Is the AI Apocalypse Really a Possibility?

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Bloody robots, taking our jobs! Now, while that’s not something we find ourselves saying quite yet, could it be soon? Elon Musk recently claimed that we have seen a ‘ten year jump in what we thought AI was capable of’, so does that mean the future is now and we’re close to witnessing the sleek and mischievous humanistic offerings in movies like Ex Machina? Or should we expect more of a faceless assisted intelligence like in Her? Or are we simply getting too ahead of ourselves and should instead settle for AI as a purpose?

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley, says that current AI is already learning to read and extract information, and that in the next decade ‘they will be able to read everything the human race has ever written’. A truly astounding claim that would not only make book clubs with lazy individuals who’ve only ‘watched the movie’ a thing of the past, but also mean that AI could theoretically take on a number of tasks that humankind are currently struggling with. In some cases it’s already starting to do this, running huge analytics projects and helping find cures for diseases.

Considering AI can cultivate a seemingly unending wealth of knowledge, should we be worried about these rapid advancements? When tech luminaries like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates put weight behind quotes such as ‘we don’t know how to control super-intelligent machines’, people are perhaps right to exercise caution. But should we be afraid of something just because of how fast it’s moving? 15 years ago, if you had said we can order Persil tablets from the push of a button stuck to your washing machine, and it would be delivered via drone from that online book store Amazon, you’d have been ridiculed. But look at us now. Though future production of AI will of course need to be regulated closely with how and what it alters, we must also remember that not all change is bad.

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