The two words;‘Artificial’and‘Intelligence’can strike fear into anyoneintelligentenough to understand its implications. The late Stephen Hawking predicted that AI willsupersede humanity, as he is quoted to have said:
“Thedevelopmentoffull artificial intelligencecould spell theendof the human race”.
So, is this ‘spell’ awarningto be taken seriously, or is it all just an elaboratemagic trick? Some of the greatest minds of this generation have suggested that the humble beginnings of AI, such as theAmazon Alexatelling you a bed time story, could turn into athreatto the survival of mankind. The true purpose of AI is toassistour lives andsatisfythe modern human desire to take theeasiest path through technology. Throughout this article I will discuss where we are up to with AI now and how it mightprogressinto the future.
Artificial Intelligence iseverywhere; in fact, nowadays, wecannotlive without it! Artificial Intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean the accidental production of terminator-esque robots with the ultimate goal of wiping out the human race - so, on that note,whereis this AI technology? To begin to answer this question, let usdefineintelligence.
The dictionary definition of intelligence is the ability toabsorbandapply knowledge and skills . To clarify, all living animals are intelligent tosome degree; theylearnfrom external stimuli all around them andrespond accordingly. For example, a dog may learn tositwhen it is taught to. This dog,by definition, is exhibitingintelligence. When we look at artificial,man-made machines; giving them the ability tolearnfrom their surroundings andapply this new knowledge, without necessarily beingconscious, yieldsArtificial Intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence can be split into 3 significant categories:Weak AI,Strong AIandArtificial Super-Intelligence. There are many, many examples of AI all around us today;whereare they and whatcategoriesdo they lie in?
Weak AI: Artificial Narrow Intelligence
Weak AI is thesimplest formof Artificial Intelligence; to further clarify, machines that exhibit Weak AI areintelligent, butonlyfocus on a narrow task . In other words, their intelligence isconstrictedto what they are programmed to do. A fantastic example of Weak AI is Apple’sSIRI; it issomewhatcapable of holding conversation with real people and can crack a joke here and there. When you speak to SIRI, itfeedsthis information into a large database andlearnshow to respond from experience of being asked similar questions. Its limits can be demonstrated by asking it something it isnot programmed to process, thus yielding inaccurate results.
Strong AI: Artificial General Intelligence
The next step up the ladder isStrong AI, or,Artificial General Intelligence. Developing a machine for it to exhibit Strong AI, means it must have the sameintellectual capabilityas a human, tofunctionlike one; in other words, Artificial General Intelligence is when the machine canthinkjust as wellas you and me. We are still along way awayfrom achieving this; in fact, some Scientistsdoubtwe willeverprogram and produce such technology. Surprisingly, it is a loteasierto code a machine that solvesadvanced calculusthan to get it towalk up the stairs; so, what will happen to the world once we are able to create an intelligence thatcompeteswith our own?
Once Artificial Super-Intelligence is achieved, things get a bitexcitingand potentiallyequallyasterrifying. Any machine that haspassedthe Singularity is classed assuper intelligent. When a self-improving machine reaches suchhighintelligence, there areno doubtsthat it will continue to become increasingly intelligent, very,veryfast. AS-I machines willsingle-mindedlycarry out their own aims, whether they agree with ours,or not. What does this all mean?
The Pessimistic Angle of AS-I
While these machines maynotnecessarily want to cause human extinction, theymaybelieve that doing so would be ofbenefitto them, so, as a result, they wouldnothesitate to do so. You may assume that intelligence of such a high calibre would have a degree ofempathyandrespectfor life, as do humans, but a problem arises;ethicalityandmoralityare bothhuman traits. What I mean, is that even we, ourselves,cannotcollectivelydecide what isrightand what iswrong; for example,abortionandeuthanasia, to say the least; so, how can we ever produce a machine of such intelligence that is deemedethicalandmoral?
The Optimistic Angle of AS-I
Thankfully, there is amore optimisticside to such technology. People believe that these machines will have ‘human safety’engrainedinto theirbase code; in other words, they will remain ourservants. Their sole purpose will notonlybe to serve us, but tohelpus bycombiningall of thisintelligencetounlockmore and more mysteries of our Universe. This collaboration of high intelligence can help us solve even thehardest of problemsin ways that we couldneverhave imagined before!
The principle of AI, in my opinion, is an incrediblyexcitingone; but I also do believe that developing such high levels of intelligence is liketreadingonthin ice. If AS-I machines consider human extinction to be of anybenefitto them, I believe that machines of such high capabilities may easilysurpassanyinitial base code… due to such intelligence. It would almost be like a human born into anatheist background,surpassingprevious beliefs andfollowingaspecific religion. If a human can alter their 'base code' (in machine terms), a machinemore intelligentthan a humansurelycan too. On the other hand, if AS-I machines believe our survival is ofbenefitto them, we, collectively, can work together and unlock mysteries of the Universe, together, and discover things weneverthought we would!
I will leave you with another quote by the famous Stephen Hawking:
“The rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.”