Posted:February 23, 2016

Cooling the Heated Rhetoric on AI

AI3 PulseArticle Offers a Balanced View on AI and the Singularity

Possibly because we are sentient, intelligent beings, discussions about artificial intelligence often occupy extremes of alarm, potential or hyperbole. What makes us unique as humans, at least in our degree of intelligence, can be threatened when we start granting machines similar capabilities. Be it Skynet, Lt. Commander Data, military robots, or the singularity, it is pretty easy to grab attention by touting AI as the greatest threat to civilization, or the dawning of a new age of super intelligence.

To be sure, we are seeing remarkable advances in things like intelligent personal assistants that answer our spoken questions, or services that can automatically recognize and tag our images, or many, many other applications. It is also appropriate to raise questions about autonomous intelligence and its possible role in warfare [1] or other areas of risk or harm. AI is undoubtedly an area of technology innovation on the rise. It will also be a constant in human affairs into the future.

That is why a recent article by Toby Walsh on The Singularity May Never Be Near [2] is worth a read. Though only four pages long, it presents a nice historical backdrop on AI and why artificial intelligence may not unfold as many suspect. As he summarizes the article:

There is both much optimism and pessimism around artificial intelligence (AI) today. The optimists are investing millions of dollars, and even in some cases billions of dollars into AI. The pessimists, on the other hand, predict that AI will end many things: jobs, warfare, and even the human race. Both the optimists and the pessimists often appeal to the idea of a technological singularity, a point in time where machine intelligence starts to run away, and a new, more intelligent species starts to inhabit the earth. If the optimists are right, this will be a moment that fundamentally changes our economy and our society. If the pessimists are right, this will be a moment that also fundamentally changes our economy and our society. It is therefore very worthwhile spending some time deciding if either of them might be right.

[1] Samuel Gibbs, 2015. “Musk, Wozniak and Hawking Urge Ban on Warfare AI and Autonomous Weapons,” The Guardian, 27 July 2015.
[2] Toby Walsh, 2016. “The Singularity May Never Be Near,” arXiv:1602.06462, 20 Feb 2016.

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Cooling the Heated Rhetoric on AI

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Article Offers a Balanced View on AI and the Singularity

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Often discussions about artificial intelligence tend to occupy extremes of alarm, potential or hyperbole. That is why a recent article by Toby Walsh on "The Singularity May Never Be Near" is worth a read.

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