“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Some of us of a certain vintage will remember those chilling words uttered from the electronic (albeit very human-like) voice of HAL 9000, the all-pervasive sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s hit move, 2001: a space odyssey which first aired in 1968.
Basically, the computer had been programmed to protect the mission at all costs and ‘felt’ the best way to do that was to kill all the humans – (me paraphrasing hugely, but you get the drift). Our hero, Dr. David Bowman, played by Keir Dullea, eventually cops on and outsmarts the computer to effectively kill HAL.
I know for me it was more intriguing than chilling and of course back in the ’70’s was so far removed from reality that the fact that ‘sure it’d never happen’ kept me sleeping soundly.
2001: the actual year, passed without computers taking over the world so all was fine. Now in 2018 things are very different; AI, Artificial Intelligence, is everywhere and not only is it not going away, it is speeding up at a rate of knots. Moore’s Law, attributed to Gordon Moore who co-founded Intel, said back in the ’70’s that computing power would double and costs would halve every two years! And you know it to be true; you see it everywhere around you – face-time, Skype and other video call platforms allow people walking down the street to communicate visually with someone else on the other side of the planet – this was the stuff of dreams in Star Trek with Captain Kirk, Scotty and Spock many moons ago; now it is simply an expectation – and people gripe when the signal drops!
So where is it headed?
No idea. Just somewhere else for sure.
In the past month I came across three perspectives that I’d like to share briefly.
Walter O’Brien, founder of Scorpion and infamous NASA hacker who stole the plans for the Space Shuttle when he was 13 (yep!) painted a picture of the future that suggested AI will do many of the tasks humans do today and do them better.
A self-learning robot may answer your call, identify your mood via voice pattern indicators and them communicate with you in a way that suits same.
The UBER you order will arrive driver-less, know where you are headed, offer you Netflix in the back and take the shortest route – it may even be free because of the advertising opportunities!
All sounds lovely until you realize the numbers of displaced humans – what will they do?
In his book, ‘Homo Deus, a brief history of tomorrow’ Yuval Noah Harari, professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem paints an interesting but somewhat chilling view of our future explaining that mankind, largely because of its superior intelligence, subjugated all other life forms into subservience of its needs. He poses the question, so what happens when computers figure out they are smarter than us and super-humans, augmented humans, decide the rest of us ‘mere mortals’ should be treated like we treat chicken today – bred for food! He proffers the argument that immortality will be ‘cracked’ in the next century or two (back to Moore’s law) because death is simply caused by a technical deficiency – something ages and wears out – but in time replacement everything will be available – likely only to the rich though!
Then we have Steve Forbes publisher of the famous magazine, bearing his family name and founded by his grandfather over a century ago. He said from the Pendulum stage in New York that we have nothing to worry about.
Forbes reminded the assembled audience of leaders that robots are simply labor saving devices; indeed the wheel was the first one!
He went on to point out other everyday examples; the washer-board became the washing machine; the horse was replaced by the tractor and so on.
Many of us now use voice commands to get what we want these days – all because of ever-improving technology.
Steve Forbes concluded that robots without people are nothing.
Is that true?
It is true (I think!) that AI has to start with a human programmer – but then more and more programs allow for self-learning. In May of 2017 a Google artificial intelligence program defeated a Chinese Grand Master at the ancient board game Go – apparently more complex than chess. In doing so it developed strategies that the grand masters hadn’t even considered throughout history!
Will a robot replace your job? Worth considering methinks.
Thank you for thinking with me.
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