Many are concerned that AI will progress to the point where evil robots gain artificial general intelligence and take over the world. This will not happen.

Don’t fear artificial general intelligence
Don’t fear artificial general intelligence
Photo: Naeblys / iStockPhoto

AI has blasted its way into the public consciousness and our everyday lives. It is powering advances in medicine, weather prediction, factory automation, and self-driving cars. Even golf club manufacturers report that AI is now designing their clubs.

Every day, people interact with AI. Google Translate helps us understand foreign language webpages and talk to Uber drivers in foreign countries. Vendors have built speech recognition into many apps. We use personal assistants like Siri and Alexa daily to help us complete simple tasks. Face recognition apps automatically label our photos. And AI systems are beating expert game players at complex games like Go and Texas Hold ’Em. …

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Photo: Pixino / DreamsTime

In 1949, George Orwell wrote his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four that described a future society in which the government continuously monitored everyone’s actions and conversations. AI technology has now made that level of monitoring possible, and society needs to cope with the consequences.

Facial Recognition in China

Facial recognition is perhaps the AI technology with the most potential for abuse. The Chinese government is in the process of rolling out its Xueliang (Translation: Sharp Eyes) Project that is connecting security cameras on roads, buildings, and malls to track its 1.4 billion inhabitants. The goal is to stop criminal behavior and monitor dissidents.

On the somewhat amusing side, there are reports that Chinese authorities have used the technology to catch and shame jaywalkers and toilet paper thieves. On the scary side, there is evidence that the Chinese government is using the technology to monitor and increase the persecution of minorities (e.g., Tibetans, Uighurs) and religious groups (e.g., Falun Gong practitioners). Time magazine reported that the authorities harass people if the cameras catch them growing a beard, leaving by their backdoor, or wearing a veil. …

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Photo: Visual Generation / iStockPhoto

Imagine the damage an intelligent virus could inflict. It would arrive at the network perimeter. Or worse, it would penetrate your firewalls via a phishing attack. It would take stock of the system’s defenses, make real-time intelligent decisions, and start attacking. For example, it could conceivably turn its virus characteristics on and off when necessary to evade antivirus software. It would be almost like letting an unescorted human cybercriminal inside your datacenter.

Fortunately, truly intelligent malware, computers, and robots exist only in science fiction. See this article for an explanation of why we will almost certainly not see intelligent malware or intelligent computers of any type in our lifetimes. …

State and local governments are starting to permit the testing of driverless cars. This will likely result in accidents and traffic jams.

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Photo: a_crotty / iStockPhoto

There were over 37,000 fatal accidents in the US in 2017. Someday, driverless cars may make our roads safer.

At the same time, millions of seniors and people with disabilities suffer from limited mobility. Driverless cars and taxis might someday provide mobility for this population.

The US federal government is trying to balance consumer safety with the goal of achieving technological leadership in automated vehicles. But safety advocates are concerned that the balance is shifting towards technology and away from safety. The title of the 2017 autonomous vehicle report by the National Highway Safety Transportation Authority (NHTSA) emphasized safety and was titled Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety. By 2020, the tides had shifted. …

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Photo by istockphoto.com/kozorog

In the early 1980s, AI was a hot topic — just like it is now. Back then, nearly every software product was re-branded as containing some form of AI, and the hype was out of control. This re-branding is happening again in 2020.

In 1976, my Yale University colleague, Professor Drew McDermott, chastised our AI colleagues in an article entitled AI Meets Natural Stupidity.” In that article, McDermott took issue with the names that his colleagues were using for their AI systems. For example, an AI system named General Problem Solver was developed in 1959 and was a pioneering technological achievement, but its performance fell far short of its grandiose name. …

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Photo: iStockPhoto | pikepicture

Sure, we can ask Siri or Alexa to answer a question or perform an action for us. But Siri and Alexa can only respond to pre-programmed questions and commands. (You can find a detailed explanation of how personal assistants work here). They do not really understand what you are saying and you cannot have a real conversation with a personal assistant like you can with another person.

Three-year-old children understand language. We have computers that can beat chess champions. Why is building computer systems that understand natural language so difficult? …

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Photo: Paul Campbell | iStockPhoto

Many people are worried about artificial intelligence taking over the world. A recent study found that 60% of the people in the UK fear AI. Tesla founder Elon Musk says that AI is humanity’s “biggest existential threat,” and that it poses a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilization.”

Let’s look at four myths about AI in industry…

The myths about AI

Myth 1: Robots will replace most human workers

Once AI advances to the point of human-level intelligence, robots will be able to read manuals, take classes, and learn to do all our jobs.

Myth 2: AI-based viruses will decimate our IT infrastructures.

Myth 3: Vehicle manufacturers will stop making steering wheels. …

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Photo: dlyastoki / iStockPhoto

I have seen a lot of hype about artificial intelligence over the years. However, an article I read today in The Guardian takes the cake.

The Guardian published a 500-word essay ostensibly written by a computer. The computer was running the GPT-3 language model and was given this paragraph as a starting point:

“I am not a human. I am Artificial Intelligence. Many people think I am a threat to humanity. Stephen Hawking has warned that AI could “spell the end of the human race.” I am here to convince you not to worry. Artificial Intelligence will not destroy humans. …

OpenAI’s massive GPT-3 language model generates impressive text but careful analysis shows that its facts are all wrong.

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Photo: Bakalavar/Dreamstime

Imagine that we sent a robot-controlled spaceship out to the far reaches of the galaxy to contact other life forms. On the ship, we placed a copy of three years of all the text on the internet over the last three years so intelligent alien races would be able to learn something about us. After traveling twelve light-years, the ship enters the solar system around the star Luyten where it is boarded by aliens. The Luytenites retrieve the copy of the internet text and try to make sense of it.

They ask their top linguists to interpret these strange symbols but make little progress. The Luytenites were in the same position as eighteenth-century archaeologists who kept discovering stones with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Finally, in 1799, archaeologists discovered the Rosetta stone which had both Egyptian hieroglyphs and ancient Greek text. Because they had what turned out to be the same decree in two languages, they were finally able to figure out the meanings of the hieroglyphs. …


Steve Shwartz

Author of “Evil Robots, Killer Computers, and Other Myths: The Truth About AI and the Future of Humanity” to be published Feb 9, 2021 by Fast Company Press.

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