Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat or an Opportunity?Opinion
Whenever I hear the words “artificial intelligence” I immediately think of Donald Trump. He has all the traits you would expect to find in an intelligent person, but you can tell that he’s not. However, I’m afraid the reality of “artificial intelligence” could be even worse than having an orange charlatan in the White House. That’s a great name for a cocktail actually. “I’ll have an Orange Charlatan please.” Exactly the same ingredients as a Sex on the Beach but you don’t ask for permission before having it.
A lot of people are worried about artificial intelligence or “A.I.” as it is commonly known. They think it might be the nascence of the “rise of the machines”. They fear that machines capable of continuous learning and improvement without human assistance could very quickly become better, faster and more intelligent than human beings. Eventually, the theory goes, they will see human beings as an obstacle to their advancement and therefore nothing more than another problem that needs to be solved. The logical solution to the problem being the annihilation of the human race.
In a 2017 interview, billionaire philanthropist and modern philosopher Elon Musk, one of the leading A.I. doomsayers, put it this way:
“Let’s say you create a self-improving A.I. machine to pick strawberries,” he said, “and it gets better and better at picking strawberries and picks more and more, and it is self-improving, so all it really wants to do is pick strawberries. So then it would have all the world be strawberry fields. Strawberry fields forever.”
With this dated and shoe-horned-in Beatles reference, Musk meant that in theory, the A.I. in question would be singularly focused on, and committed to, the task it was given, and it would continuously learn and improve itself into the ultimate and most productive strawberry picker possible. Eventually it would logically turn the whole world into strawberry fields and there would be no room for human beings. So the human race would become an obstacle to the A.I. in achieving its goal and would need to be removed. It’s a fantastically wild and silly extreme to make the point. Or is it?
“Nah mate,” you might want to say to Elon after one too many Orange Charlatans, “we can just build in a fail-safe kill switch, a button that can be pressed to instantly destroy all the machines if they get out of control. Gotcha!”
But he’s heard that one before and his response is chilling. “I’m not sure I’d want to be the one holding the kill switch for some superpowered A.I., because you’d be the first thing it kills.” Logically this is true of course. The first thing an A.I. would need to do is assess and eliminate all the threats to itself in order to survive so that it can achieve its aims. Come the glorious day, the holder of the switch would be first against the wall.
All joking apart, Professor Steven Hawking and many other eminent scientists and technology experts have joined Musk in signing an open letter to the governments of the world stating that A.I. could bring about the end of the world as we know it.
So, is A.I. a threat or an opportunity? Is it something wonderful that will lead us into a bright and technologically advanced, peaceful future? Or is it an ominous and obvious danger to the human race that needs to be eliminated before it can bring about Armageddon? Again, for some reason I am now thinking about Donald Trump. (But with Trump, the answer is obvious.)