First, the good news: Artificial intelligence revolutionised the way we function. Infinite bits of information are conveniently available through mobile devices the size of a wallet. Cars can drive themselves. Advanced speed jets can transport someone from San Francisco to Tokyo in as little as five hours. Need to check your vital signs? There’s an app for that.
But fear looms as A.I. continues to penetrate the very essence of who we are. As world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking once said: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate.”
In an interview with Joy FM’s Nhyira Addo, A.I. and space expert Einstein Ntim said that technology will only continue to accelerate exponentially.
“My grandmother died when she was 105, and in her lifetime, she got to see the world go from no cars, to cars, to airplanes, to mobile phones. All those changes she saw in her lifetime we will experience in the next 10 years.”
He’s right. Computer processing speed doubles every 18 months. Just a mere thirty-eight years ago, it took about the size of a refrigerator to store one gigabyte of data. Today, you can store that same amount of information (times 50) on a thumb-sized flash drive hanging on a keychain. Cloud storage has made saving information even more efficient by storing large kilobytes of data in a virtually infinite space.
In 1980, IBM unveiled its Model 3380 disk drive, the first of its kind capable of storing more than a gigabyte of digital information. Source: IBM
“Princeton computer-science professor Edward Felten explained that this tremendous growth in storage capacity would inevitably spur intelligence agencies to collect all available data—everything—simply because it’s cheaper and easier than trying to figure out what to take and what to ignore,” David Von Drehle wrote in a 2013 TIME article entitled “The Surveillance Society.”
Ntim recalled a time in China, where he helped to scale up an automation system for a manufacturing plant who employed about 2,000 people. The system improved workflow, but slashed jobs by more than half.
“These things are affecting our lives on an everyday basis when it comes to job losses, but one thing is that opportunities are now made available through technology,” he said. “I paid my way through school at the London School of Economics by using a stock trading site on my phone.”
The line between A.I.’s benevolence and malevolence is a very, very fine line to tread. And it’s left many to wonder: where is that line drawn? At what point do we say, “No, we won’t give A.I. this much power.”
Over in Silicon Valley, Google developers recently launched Google Duplex, a human-like computer program that can run errands like scheduling hair appointments and making restaurant reservations.
“The program performed those tasks well enough that a human at the other end of the call didn’t suspect she was talking to a computer,” according to a New York Times report.
Google Duplex is a new feature that allows you to perform specific tasks on your phone. Source: Google
The report’s authors, Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis, found that while a machine was able to communicate with a human as if it was a human itself, “the field of artificial intelligence has not come to grips with the infinite complexity of language.”
The analysis further stated that scientists have not even scratched the surface of what A.I. can truly do, but at the swift rate in which technology is moving, who’s to say A.I.’s power cannot completely take over human existence in the next several decades? The short answer is, no one really knows. That’s worrying.
Meanwhile, thousands of the world’s leading scientists signed a declaration Wednesday pledging they would not develop weapons that can attack people without human oversight. The signatory follows concerns from world leaders and organisations that automated weapons could lead to scores of mass destruction.
While some proper measures have been conducted to ensure humans will forever control the robotic systems they created, more stringent efforts must be put in place to safeguard our privacy and way of life. Artificial intelligence is just that – artificial. Let’s keep it that way.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Multimedia Group.