IN A POST entitled “Machine Learning: Bane or Blessing for Mankind?”, I noted that the renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking along with his colleagues Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark, and Frank Wilczek recommend moving cautiously in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), especially in the area of autonomous weapon systems. Hawking and his colleagues understand, however, that the AI genie has already been released from the bottle and there is no way to get it back in.
After noting Hawking’s concerns, Ron Neale comments, “Such a warning about the application of AI and its derivative intelligent machines (IMs), especially in the area of military application, might be appropriate. But what if IMs are really just a new branch of the tree of evolution that has led us from the original Protists to where we are today?” [“Artificial & Machine Intelligence: Future Fact, or Fantasy?” EE Times, 13 May 2014] Although Neale finds the prospect of a Skynet-like system (the AI system in “Terminator” that takes over and starts eradicating humans) frightening, he’s skeptical that such a system will ever exist. He explains:
Frankly, I’m not sure that the biological evolution analogy is a good one. Biological evolution essentially changes the organic characteristics of a species so that beneficial traits can be passed on to subsequent generations. Two of Neale’s options aren’t really biological evolution because they aren’t organic (they fit much neater in the transhumanist framework). Only his “new branch of the tree” option could develop into an evolutionary process, but it wouldn’t be a new branch it would be an entirely new tree.
Regardless of how artificial intelligence develops in the years ahead, almost all pundits agree that the world will forever change as a result of advances in AI. During a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Bill Gates insisted that the “mindset[s] of the government and people have not adjusted to view the future, even though technology is exploding this decade into a world of the Internet of Things and the propulsion into artificial intelligence.” [“Bill Gates outlines the mindset of A.I. for jobs in the future,” by Victoria Wagner Ross, San Diego Technology Examiner, 14 March 2014]
The greatest worry for many analysts, including Gates, is the number of jobs that artificial intelligence systems are poised to take over. Mark van Rijmenam reports, “The potential of Artificial Intelligence is enormous and in fact, a 2013 study by Oxford University estimated that Artificial Intelligence could take over nearly half of all jobs in the United States in the near future.” [“Is Artificial Intelligence About to Change Doing Business Forever?” SmartData Collective, 8 March 2014] Ross also cites the Oxford University study. She writes:
“There are 702 occupations that will be affected by automation into the future of A.I. and robots according to [Carl Benedikt] Frey and his co-author, Michael Osborne, of the study. Frey who is a Ph.D. in economics was surprised how easily the algorithm replaced the loan officer. The loan officer was predicted with a 98% probability of replacement. A safer position at only 11% probability was journalists. Surgeons were at the lowest probability along with elementary school teachers.” Full Story
We disagree surgeons will be on the top of the cutting block; a machine can outperform any man in the long run. It will never waiver, and it would be able to make the smallest of incisions without missing its mark. Additionally, it will be able to access hundreds of databases to identify the best possible approach within seconds, something a human could never do. As for school teachers, the whole concept of schools is going to change. Traditional schools are going to go the way of the dinosaur. Homeschooling with an AI assistant is going to take off; this AI program will be able to identify the areas your child is strong in and focus on those areas. Now a child will be able to focus on what they are good at almost immediately instead of wasting a lifetime learning rubbish and then trying to find out what they are good at later on in life.
Anything that requires a personal touch that does not follow a set of rigid rules and is not logically based will be hard for AI to replace. For example a good cook, a comedian, artists of all kinds, etc. Creativity will not be easy for AI to duplicate and sadly, today’s schools are the perfect creativity killing machines.