Living with artificial intelligence: how do we get it right?
For safety’s sake, we want the machines to be ethically as well as cognitively superhuman. We want them to aim for the moral high ground, not for the troughs in which many of us spend some of our time
– Huw Price and Karina Vold
This has been the decade of AI, with one astonishing feat after another. A chess-playing AI that can defeat not only all human chess players, but also all previous human-programmed chess machines, after learning the game in just four hours? That’s yesterday’s news, what’s next?
True, these prodigious accomplishments are all in so-called narrow AI, where machines perform highly specialised tasks. But many experts believe this restriction is very temporary. By mid-century, we may have artificial general intelligence (AGI) – machines that are capable of human-level performance on the full range of tasks that we ourselves can tackle.
If so, then there’s little reason to think that it will stop there. Machines will be free of many of the physical constraints on human intelligence. Our brains run at slow biochemical processing speeds on the power of a light bulb, and need to fit through a human birth canal. It is remarkable what they accomplish, given these handicaps. But they may be as far from the physical limits of thought as our eyes are from the Webb Space Telescope.
Once machines are better than us at designing even smarter machines, progress towards these limits could accelerate. What would this mean for us? Could we ensure a safe and worthwhile coexistence with such machines?
On the plus side, AI is already useful and profitable for many things, and super AI might be expected to be super useful, and super profitable. But the more powerful AI becomes, the more we ask it to do for us, the more important it will be to specify its goals with great care. Folklore is full of tales of people who ask for the wrong thing, with disastrous consequences – King Midas, for example, who didn’t really want his breakfast to turn to gold as he put it to his lips.
So we need to make sure that powerful AI machines are ‘human-friendly’ – that they have goals reliably aligned with our own values. One thing that makes this task difficult is that by the standards we want the machines to aim for, we ourselves do rather poorly. Humans are far from reliably human-friendly. We do many terrible things to each other and to many other sentient creatures with whom we share the planet. If superintelligent machines don’t do a lot better than us, we’ll be in deep trouble. We’ll have powerful new intelligence amplifying the dark sides of our own fallible natures.
BLOCKCHAIN HOLDS GREAT potential for improving payment systems, but for the moment that potential remains largely unrealised.read more
Algorithms automating repetitive legal tasks will allow lawyers to focus on pertinent legal issues while expanding their work portfolios.read more
From improving health care processes to predicting when you might need to go into the hospital, AI is improving many aspects of the way we obtain and pay for medical care. Most patients aren’t aware – yet – of what goes on to make AI a reality in health care.read more
An analysis of more than 400 use cases across 19 industries and nine business functions highlights the broad use and significant economic potential of advanced AI techniques.read more
Did the chicken you just buy at the supermarket have a nice life, roam free, and eat healthy grains? If you’re the kind of person who cares, Carrefour SA, the big France-based grocery chain, has the bird for you.read more
Steven Spielberg’s new film “Ready Player One” imagines a future where people live much of their lives in virtual reality. Do science fiction’s predictions of the future ever come true?read more
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery