Artificial Intelligence (AI) was first introduced to humans as one a theme in science fiction books and movies, but it has become clear that it could become a reality. Research into driverless cars is at an advanced level, and they could be on our roads in a couple of years or even sooner. Robots are already working alongside humans in high-tech activities such as surgery. Automated machines dispense cash at banks, and the internet has connected the world, enabling people to communicate across continents in real time.
Benefits of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence could banish poverty, improve the efficiency of medical procedures, unravel cures of currently incurable diseases, and make humans live longer or even become immortal. Artificial intelligence promises real benefits regarding improving the quality of human life.
Could Artificial Intelligence Come With Risks?
As recently as October 2016, renowned scientist Professor Stephen Hawking expressed fears that creating machines that have the capacity to think, could turn out to be the last thing humans do as a species. As the machines become more intelligent than humans and decide they will no longer serve humans, it can lead to nightmare scenarios as seen in science fiction movies.
Tesla Motors and Space X founder Elon Musk and Bill Gates are among other notable personalities who have expressed concerns about the real threat that Artificial Intelligence could pose to humanity in the coming years.
Director of Artificial Intelligence Research at Facebook and Professor at NYU Yann LeCun gave his views about the possible threat posed by Artificial Intelligence on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
According to LeCun, Artificial Intelligence is unlikely to become an existential threat to humanity. That possibility does exist, but humans would have to be very stupid to let it happen.
Human beings have faced all manner of threats through the ages ranging from outbreaks of pandemics, wars, famines, the melting of glaciers leading to massive floods and other natural disasters, as well as accidents that happen on a large scale such as leakage of radioactive material.
The threat to humanity is humans themselves, not machines, unless mother earth goes out of control with volcanic eruptions or earthquakes.
Humans themselves have caused many disasters. They dispose of waste carelessly, make equipment that malfunctions and endangers lives, or destroy the environment impacting weather patterns negatively.
Humans also tend to make less than ideal decisions. Being at the mercy of negative emotions such as fear, insecurity, pride, jealousy, and greed makes humans do things that harm other people.
If Artificial Intelligence ever becomes a threat to humans, it is us who will have programmed the machines with the intention of doing harm.
If someone allows their negative emotions to lead them while building intelligent machines, they could build them with the intention of destroying someone else. It will be an act of declaring war on another, and will most likely to lead to retaliation.
Artificial Intelligence is in the service of humans, controlled by humans. The machines have no need to be at war with humans, take over the world, or conquer anyone.
Mitigation Against Misuse of Artificial Intelligence
There are real risks and threats that need to be mitigated, mainly governing the humans in charge of intelligent machines and not the machines themselves. Laws need to be formulated to ensure accountability, security, and ethical use of artificial intelligence.
Should a ruthless leader get the chance to control artificial intelligence that can prove catastrophic in war situations, it could lead to devastation as machines are commanded to destroy humans, the perceived or real enemies of such an individual.
Humans build Artificial Intelligence, and if humans are intelligent enough to do that, they should be able to foresee possible threats and prevent them from happening.
Machines have no mind of their own; humans program them. Intelligent machines do not have emotions, so they have no cause to attack humans.
Are Humans Capable of Preventing Intelligent Machine Destruction?
Contrary to what many might believe, a man might not be in a position to entirely prevent Artificial Intelligence from becoming a threat to humanity.
History overflows with examples of man’s inventions being used to destroy humanity, not necessarily by the inventors but others who see them as a means to achieve their selfish ends. Man created atomic bombs and jet fighters, and used them to destroy human life on a large scale.
It remains to be seen whether the inventors of intelligent machines, and policy makers who govern their use, can keep them away from those who might be determined to misuse them.
Man’s creations fail all the time. Planes and vehicles crash and operating systems of computers give up. Nuclear reactors and other inventions fail, leading to destruction.
What if operating systems of intelligent machines should fail so they no longer understand commands? Scenarios such as the malfunction of Artificial Intelligence manning weapon installations could have disastrous results, should there be system failure that results bombs or missiles being released.
Artificial Intelligence inventors are smart, and understand the potential and possible risks of intelligent machines. Their inspiration for designing intelligent machines is to solve some real problems affecting humans, to help improve the quality of life.
Intelligence does not corellate with a desire for power and inventors are unlikely to be power hungry. There could be a real threat, however, should Artificial Intelligence fall into the hands of people whose capacity to handle such machines is limited.
The risk is even bigger if such people happen to have the power to make people execute commands, as could happen in war situations where enemies defeat owners of intelligent machines. We have seen people misuse the internet to destroy other people, such as what happens with cyber-crimes or criminals misusing illegally bought guns.
Artificial Intelligence and The Future of Employment
There is a real risk of intelligent machines displacing human workers on a large scale, which could cause unrest as large numbers of people lose their sources of livelihood.
How will people keep themselves occupied should intelligent machines take over jobs for the masses? Will it make the owners of the machines super rich, while pushing entire populations to poverty and destitution? Will there be a source of income for those who lose their jobs, or will they be pushed into poverty? Will they get bored and turn to mischief?
Artificial Intelligence is expected to facilitate space travel, which Professor Hawking fears could come with another set of risks and threats. What if space travel leads to the discovering of other beings who are more intelligent, more advanced than earthlings? Could it be a repeat of the fate of natives who lost out to explorers from more advanced lands?
Artificial Intelligence gives hope of a better future for humanity, but policymakers and businesses cannot afford to downplay the possible threats and challenges that Artificial Intelligence could pose in the coming years. Those challenges need to be addressed to ensure Artificial Intelligence has a positive impact on humanity.
Do you have concerns about the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on humans? We appreciate your input as we endeavor to keep the world safe for all of us. Let us know your thoughts below!