“What the farmer doesn’t know, he doesn’t eat” is a saying that most people have heard already in the course of their lives. In this or a similar way it is most likely the case with the rather new topic of Artificial Intelligence. And it’s not a secret that there is some kind of truth behind every saying. And in that sense the opinions of the people about the technology that should change our world vary.
It’s the same for every topic that can be discussed controversially, you can find representatives of optimists, pessimists and realists. These groups of people also exist when it comes to the question, what Artificial Intelligence will bring to the human race, a collapse of civilisation or does it mean a basis for a better life? Normally we’d say sentences like: “Let’s keep the ball down” or “Don’t panic!”. But in this case many people are convinced that artificial intelligence (AI) indeed has the potential to be destructive.
“AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilisation, and I don’t think people fully appreciate it”, entrepreneur and investor Elon Musk claims and indicates the he surely is not alone with his opinion. For instance, also the world-famous and recently deceased English physicist and Stephen Hawking made his opinion clear in this statement: “I fear that AI may replace the humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that improves and replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that outperforms humans.”
These statements hit the nerve of many people, especially of those who have not encountered with AI yet, only perhaps in Hollywood blockbusters. And it’s true, already today AI can be used as a weapon, for instance when a computer programs that do automated tasks, so called bots, run cyber-attacks. The task will be to create AI that fights against harmful AI. Indeed most cyber security applications are already using a kind of artificial intelligence that is able to identify attack patterns and other anomalies.
Yes there are risks. But nevertheless artificial intelligence provides a variety of opportunities for the mankind that in many places finds itself in a demographic change. Dieter Spath, Co-chair of Germany’s plat form for Artificial Intelligence “Lernende Systeme” mean that, “If we want to close the demographic gap we cannot leave anybody out. Robots, intelligent machines and software systems help people to work more productively.” The CEO of the American technology giant Google, Sundar Pichai, makes it even clearer when he says: “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on. I think of it as something more profound than electricity of fire. Artificial Intelligence will save us not destroy us.” And even Elon Musk seems to believe in it, because he operates a company that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.
It will be the responsibility of all who drive this new technology forward to make sure that Artificial Intelligence will never fall into the wrong hands. It must be developed to support and help people in all possible situations. Organisations need to work collaboratively and define the right rules and to better understand the limits of AI that we see right now. This is how we can minimized the risks that are real for sure .
Learn more about Artificial Intelligence in the latest EBV knowledge magazine “The Quintessence”. You can order your own free copy on our website here.