Artificial intelligence advances are accelerating. Today, cellphones can be verbally instructed to find specialty restaurants or movie theaters, or asked virtually any question. Most recognize that, sooner or later, safer self-driving cars will replace human-drivers. In the medicine, computers make faster and more accurate diagnoses and can train medical students. Robots are taking over from human doctors for delicate procedures. New AI products and techniques are being announced with startling rapidity. Only specialists can keep track.
Fifteen years ago, in March 2000, I wrote (1):
It has been estimated that synthetic intelligence will exceed that of humans within about 30 years. At what stage will a machine have an independent legal identity to protect its life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? As the development of artificial body-parts advances to the replacement of whole human segments, perhaps even the brain, when will human identity cease and machine identity commence?
If I can download my entire consciousness to a machine and my physical body shows inferior characteristics, at what stage will I choose to survive in synthetic form and discard the organic original? And, when the organic body is shut down, what are the social, moral, legal and theological implications? Will my synthetic being maintain my legal status?
The new millennium brings with it enormous changes in all areas of human consciousness. Perhaps we will enter the era of trans-human, or even post-human existence. In all spheres of consciousness – social, philosophical, spiritual – we must begin to consider the ramifications and prepare for them
In 2015, the world is already halfway towards those predictions. Let’s prognosticate on the possibilities
AI & Robotics are Here
A Pew Research report predicts that by 2025, AI and robotics will be integrated into nearly every aspect of most people’s daily lives. (2) Beyond the consequences of human labor replacement, there’s more to worry about – AI will increasingly keep demanding additional resources and will be more and more in charge . (3)
Peter Diamandis thinks that advances in AI will be a key to helping in a new era of "abundance” with enough food, water, and comfort for all humans. (4) Skeptics, and I’m starting to be one of them, worry about the consequences of AI and robotics.
Ray Kurzweil Prognostications
The futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil has predicted that human-level AI will be achieved by 2029. Beyond that date, Kurzweil has forecasted the Singularity when humans can blend and merge with machines, to become immortal. (5)
Projecting beyond the next few decades, it’s evident that machines will be smarter than humans at just about everything. Computers will eventually be able to program themselves, understand massive quantities of information, and “think” in ways that ordinary humans cannot imagine. And they won’t need to take breaks or relax. There will be few jobs left – for entertainers, performers and creative categories of humans. But, what about beyond that?
Science Fiction Portrayal
Science fiction threats have been written about for years. Artificial intelligence has loomed as a threat to humanity ever since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, first published in 1818. AI dooms humanity, on Earth (Terminator and sequels) or in space (Battlestar Galactica). Humans have been ruled by despotic supercomputer, as in the 1970 Colossus: The Forbin Project.
The futurist and humanist Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey became famous through Stanley Kubrick's film version. In Steven Spielberg’s 2001 movie A.I Artificial Intelligence, a highly advanced robotic boy longs to become "real" so that he can regain the love of his human mother. Ex Machina, a 2015 British movie, illustrates just how thin the line between intelligence and artificial intelligence really is.
In his recent sci-fi novel Avogadro Corp. William Hertling describes science fiction that is quickly becoming science fact. In great technical detail, Hertling describes complications that proliferate today and will cause significant problems in the very near future. The book’s sub-title warns: "The Singularity is closer than it appears." (6)
In the biblical allegory, Satan tempts Adam and Eve to taste the fruit from the tree of knowledge. That first bite of the apple represents the fall of man. The use of the Apple logo is extremely powerful, symbolizing use of Apple computers to obtain knowledge and enlighten the human race. Steve Jobs was very protective of that symbol, cleverly recognizing that it carried centuries of meaning. (7)
In 2015, Apple became the first US Company with a market value above $700 billion, and is now expected to keep growing beyond $ 1 trillion. The recent movie, Steve Jobs paints a portrait of the man who was obsessed with the possibilities of domination of his company in the digital revolution. There’s a veiled connection between Apple’s ascendancy and the growing threat of AI becoming a danger to the continuation of human existence.
It’s not hard to imagine future Internet hacks, generated by AI, providing false-links, or phantom texts sent out to billions of humans with Pied Piper-like impact. The Intelligence would purport to be issuing the instructions for “the good of humanity”. Hey, that could be the plot for a good science fiction story…
AI in Kids Toys
My colleagues from APF (Association of Professional Futurists) brought up an interesting discussion about the use of AI in kids’ toys. Several companies, including toy-industry leader Mattel, are planning to introduce an assortment of AI-enabled toys this holiday season for kids as young as age three. (8)
When a child asks, “Want to play a game?” Mattel’s Hello Barbie immediately accesses one of 8,000 possible responses to simulate the back-and-forth of a typical children’s conversation. The toy essentially deconstructs everything that makes humans special – and replaces it with sensors, computer servers, software and algorithms. It remembers past conversations. For example, it remembers if a child has brothers or sisters, their names and when they last played together. Parents are happy that their child is engaged and is less intrusive.
The value of interactive AI in toys is that they can adapt to a child's special needs and abilities. They can be infinitely patient and always get the child's attention as the top priority. They develop interaction, leadership, and self-reflection in the child, rather than simply putting them in a passive entertainment mode. The child is prepared and conditioned for the future AI-based world that will require socialization not just with others, but also with machines.
From yesterday’s perspective, the kids are simply engaging in a conversation with a make-believe friend. The insidious underlying problem is that intelligent toys allow steady AI encroachment on a much broader scale, removing impediments and resistance that arise from adults who may or may not recognize the dangers. It brainwashes babies to prefer AI interaction over less cooperative human communication. Who knows more – Mommy and Daddy, or my always-available friend?
Threat to Humanity
Two intrepid entrepreneurs and innovators, Elon Musk and Bill Gates, two of humanity's most credible thinkers, say they are terrified of the same thing: Artificial intelligence. Eminent scientist Stephen Hawking underscores the same warning.
During a talk with students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Elon Musk declared that AI is the most serious threat to the survival of the human race. Musk said, “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful. I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.” (9)
In a September 2015 CNN interview, Musk goes even further, “AI is much more advanced than people realize. It would be fairly obvious if you saw a robot walking around talking and behaving like a person. What's not obvious is a huge server bank in a vault somewhere with an intelligence that's potentially vastly greatly than what a human mind can do. And it's eyes and ears will be everywhere, every camera, every device that's network accessible. Humanity's position on this planet depends on its intelligence. So if our intelligence is exceeded, it's unlikely that we will remain in charge."
Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking warns, "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." (10)
In a February 2015 Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Bill Gates says, "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I don't understand why some people are not concerned."
Please share our discussion by responding to these questions directly via the blog. If you prefer, send me an email and I’ll insert your comments.
- Do you consider Artificial Intelligence as providing significant value?
- Do you enjoy and appreciate the values that AI provides?
- Have you noticed that AI is steadily encroaching in our lives?
- Are you uncomfortable with the spread of AI everywhere?
- What will you do when your kid think their toy is smarter than you?
- Will AI eventually take over? How long?
- Can anyone stop the spread of AI? How?
- Have you considered that AI would be more effective running the government?
- How can AI eventually be stopped? What can stop the advance?
- Jim Pinto – Intelligence & Consciousness in the New Age: http://goo.gl/CH3uJP
- Predictions for the State of AI and Robotics in 2025: http://goo.gl/CiVx7M
- Why We Should Think About the Threat of Artificial Intelligence: http://goo.gl/CpBCWd
- Why I Don't Fear Artificial Intelligence: http://goo.gl/QfhJAG
- KURZWEIL: Human-Level AI Is Coming By 2029: http://goo.gl/qEZGgp
- Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears: http://goo.gl/mXFrgx
- Unraveling the tale behind the Apple logo: http://goo.gl/xB47po
- Artificial intelligence is moving from the lab to your kid’s playroom: http://goo.gl/J2A45g
- Artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat: http://goo.gl/82svgT
- AI Has Arrived, That Really Worries the World’s Brightest Minds: http://goo.gl/uHIro7
Carlsbad, CA. USA
29 October 2015