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What happens when Artificial Intelligence becomes smarter that man?

A long time ago in the classic era of science fiction (the 40s and 50s, Isaac Asimov, the science fiction writer coined the 3 laws of robotics.

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

This was in the days when computers were the size of houses with less computing power than a digital watch. The idea that a computer could one day rival the thinking abilities of humans was truly the realm of fiction.

Of course we have come a very long way since then. Humans have, in the past 50 years made a habit of turning science fiction into fact.

When it comes to computing, the power and complexity of computers has gone through the roof. A computer with a kind of self awareness now is not a case of if, but when.

I have recently been watching a show called “Person of Interest” It’s a fun show. You have to suspend disbelief a little bit, but the interaction between characters is great and it slots in a few lines every now and then that show that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the show becomes a relaxing journey into escapism.

But one of the big question it raises is that it looks at the existence of a machine that is smarter than humans as if it has already happened. Now this has been done before both by the Matrix and Terminator. But – two things. We were no where near as close to realising the creation of a true artificial intelligence when the Matrix came  out and this is essentially a cop drama set in New York. This makes it seem so much more plausible.

Anyway, by watching this show, it started occurring to me that the rise of artificial intelligence is inevitable. And once that happens, I think it is inevitable that there will come a day when a computer comes along that is smarter than human. I think it is also inevitable that once they get smarter, they will not just become a little but smarter, but over time become infinitely smarter than human.

I  thought, wow, that is a really scary. I wonder if I’m over reacting.

So, naturally I decided to find out what other people think about this possibility. I typed “The Dangers Of Artificial Intelligence” and found out that were prominent people who were already speaking out about the potential dangers, and saying that they were huge. Bill Gates is one, as is Stephen Hawkings. They see the rise of artificial intelligence as a potential existential threat to mankind. Bill Gates has actually said “I don’t understand why some people are not concerned”.

As I said, I view it as inevitable that artificial intelligence will become smarter than humans. Let me explain why. Our thirst for knowledge is so unquenchable that we now understand about the events at the dawn of time when the universe was formed. Scientists daily get a deeper and deeper understanding of the very building blocks of reality, atoms. In biology, scientists are seeking to understand how to create living organisms from non living chemicals.

To suggest then that there could be one area of human study that could be constrained in some way as to not continually pushing the boundaries of understanding is simply inconceivable. Even if every government in the world put strict laws in place to prevent the advance of artificial intelligence, someone would do it in secret.

Additionally there is the tipping point problem. That is, you may say let’s create intelligent machines but only make them so intelligent as to be not quite as smart as humans. Then you tinker with them a bit more, and more. Then suddenly you go “oh, shit”, as you realise that you have gone that one step too far and the machine is now actually more intelligent than you.

But what about the laws of robotics? Wouldn’t something like this make it impossible for machines, no matter how intelligent to do something that harms humans? i seriously doubt it. A machine smarter than us would be able to question those rules and then bypass them if it so desired.

This is all a bit doom and gloom isn’t it? What can be done about it? Surely this can’t actually happen can it? Well yes it can, and no, nothing can be done about it. Like I said, I believe it is inevitable and unstoppable. The only thing we can do is hope that the doomsayers are wrong.

More on the dangers of artificial intelligence from the Washington post. And here from the Huffington Post

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Shaun

A computer specialist who has had a long and varied career in IT, starting with the days of Novell, progressing through Microsoft on the way to Cisco and network security.Now running Revolution Web Design, to provide customers with great Web Design, SEO and digital strategy advice.