Call me an optimist, but when it comes to the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to take a few deep breaths, put on the kettle and chill the fuck out.
Okay, I get why the fear of the unknown is causing you stress. Especially when the experts are comparing future technologies to ‘summoning the demon’ - I’m looking at you Elon Musk. Even everyone’s favourite genius, Stephen Hawking, is saying the future of AI ‘could spell the end of the human race’.
We’re bombarded with pop culture performances of what AI might mean for us. From Westworld to Humans and the more old school iRobot– the prospects aren’t exactly dreamy (unless Will Smith is really going to come and save the day– umm, yes please). One of the most sinister examples of this comes from Disney. Anyone remember the film Wall-e? In this cutesy kids film, humans become so dependent on robots that they end up obese and enfeebled until all they do is float around in a spaceship eating all day. And while it might sound tempting to lie on your back and indulge in your favourite snacks for eternity, the idea of us humans losing total autonomy is understandably weirding us out.
But before you smash up your laptop and declare war against the (computerised) system, take a step back and find some inner calm. Although the fear of the unknown has the tendency to stress us out, I really believe we’re on to something good here. You only need to look at how much things have improved in our own lifetime to realise just how great we’ve got it. Anyone else remember screaming at your sister to get off the house phone so that you could dial up to broadband and sign in and out of MSN twenty times to get your crush’s attention? Yeah, me neither…
Those brainboxes in tech labs around the world are making our lives increasingly easier with every growing year. New headsets have been invented that will help you shred weight just by sitting still and just shout the name of your favourite song to your Alexa robot to have it pump out beats while you do your cooking. Not to mention that thanks to computer technology we are the most informed generation– EVER. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have to be careful about how we go about creating these intelligent machines. Scientists can easily give you a number of ways that programming can go horribly wrong. But I also don’t think we should be so quick to catastrophise.
Okay, so we are never going to be as good as our mobile phone at calculating sums and even the best chess players find it impossible to beat computers. But why does that have to be such a disaster? With the people and the right intentions behind the tech, AI could be a serious force for good. Imagine if the intelligence were to end up in the hands of the Luke Skywalkers, Malala Yousafzais and Barack Obamas of the world - things could be about to get a hell of a lot better.
If we can create super intelligent robots that share our core values and beliefs we can achieve things that right now seem completely impossible. We could discover new types of technology that we can’t currently even dream up, we can dig further into space exploration and we can help the most vulnerable members of our society. And the first rays of sunshine are beginning to crack through. There are already baby seal robots that are given to dementia patients so that they’re able to have something to look after and nurture and plans are already being drawn up on how AI can reframe the way we farm (pretty important as the world’s population is set to balloon to 9.7 billion by 2050).
We need to stop being so hung up on maintaining our status as the cleverest beings in the universe and realise that it doesn’t delegitimise our existence or leave us with nothing to do. According to the experts, what the human race has achieved so far in terms of creating science is phenomenal and we don’t yet know how to recreate anything that comes close to that. So while it’s wise to tread carefully, it’s time to stop the doomsday chat. Let’s get excited about the amazing new advancements that AI can bring.