Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a prevalent theme of science fiction for decades now. The idea that machines can exhibit same level of intelligence as humans has kept writers and audience in the firm grip in all sorts of art, from top selling novels to blockbuster movies. But artists and futurists have a certain habit of romanticizing the subject. Like frequent inclusion of robots similar to humans. And I get it, that is an easier method than expecting your audience to show empathy with long lines of code. But this artistic image of AI is wrong. Portraying AI as humanoid robot is analogous to creating chassis of car; even before invention of combustion engine.
So why is there so much hype around AI now? Will it really destroy the world or is it going to create a new Utopia where all of the troublesome labor will be handled by intelligent machines? Over the years, great minds like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkings raised genuine concerns about Artificial Intelligence. But AI has also shown promising future in many fields like health where artificial limbs for handicap persons work with the help of this new technology. So where will AI take us in the future?
In 1960s, there was a similar hype around Nuclear Technology. There were proponents of nuclear technology who dreamed of a future powered by nuclear energy. Where cars would never run out of fuel and all of human energy needs would be fulfilled by this seemingly never-ending source of energy. And then there was an opposing side, which feared a dystopia, scared by the destructive power of nuclear technology, as demonstrated by US in 1945. But look at us now. AI is not different; there are two extreme positions but as it is the case with every issue with two extremes, truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Progress in AI has seen an exponential growth over the years, thanks to the enabling variables such as computer processing power. As great minds around the world are in a race to mimic millions of years of human evolution on computers, there are few things which need to be addressed by policy makers and scientists alike. How far is too far? How much control we want AI to have? Can we trust AI to hand over everything? Is AI even capable enough? There are many experts who believe that AI can never be at the level of human intelligence.
And perhaps they are right. We cannot create intelligence in machine which can match human intelligence. Perhaps, we are incomprehensibly complex and we cannot mimic nature. But then again, if random mutations can result in human intelligence, what’s stopping AI to achieve the same level? In fact, AI has already surpassed us in limited scope. Deep Blue and Alpha Go computer systems has defeated best human players in popular board games like Go and Chess. Think about it, even if you dedicate your whole life mastering one of these games, you can never be as good as these computer systems. You can dismiss these achievements but AI is not going to stop at beating us in Chess. It is going to be far more than a playing toy in near future.
But if AI is going to be capable enough to do all physical and mental labor, what purpose would we as humans serve? If we, in this idealistic quest, render an entire species useless, would it stop AI to recognize our obsolescence and taking control? If one day, AI is going to surpass human intelligence and we become ants in front of it, how will it treat us? Matter of fact, how we treat ants? Think of it in this way: You are going to build a new home, but there is a colony of ants on a land where your new home is going to be built. You wouldn’t care less about those little ants. Try explaining immense benefits to animals, of cutting those trees and destroying their natural habitats. What if AI needs something and we are in its way? Would it care about us? And these are not scribblings of a paranoid mind, this is very much in realm of possibility and according to experts, it is going to happen in next few decades.
On October 5, 1960, an early warning system in Greenland issued a level-5 warning. Which meant a long range soviet missile is about to hit USA. The warning was quickly passed to the high command but it was dismissed due to the fact that Nikita Khrushchev, head of the Soviet Union was in US at that time, you wouldn’t expect him to be there at the time of nuclear attack. Later, it was investigated that early warning system in Greenland mistook rising moon as Soviet missile. But think about it for a second, had Nikita not been there in US? We were grazed by the apocalypse. We humans are fallible, we make mistakes and now, with the advent of destructive technologies on scale of extinction of all life on earth, we are right in our concerns about giving up control and handing it all over to the machines.