Will AI robots and their rapid progression hinder or benefit humanity in the future? Some of the world's most influential physicists, entrepreneurs and engineers believe it can cause more harm than good. With the evolution of technology being pushed upon society, should there be people dedicated to keeping AI robots benign?  


Alex Proyas's film, I, Robot, undoubtedly raised awareness to what many probably considered to be an irrelevant fear at the time – the fear of artificial intelligence (AI). The 2004 film that starred Will Smith took place in 2035, featuring a world where AI robots were prevalent. After investigating a crime that was presumably committed by a robot, Smith watched as the robot community's intelligence evolved independence, which then led to civil war between humans and AI robots. When the movie was first released twelve years ago it was predominantly seen as a science fiction film. In our contemporary society the threat of AI to humanity has not come to fruition, but that day may not be too far in the future. This prospect has prompted some of the most respected minds to try and prevent what many once feared in 2004.  

Dangers Of AI 

Putting effort forth to keep AI nonthreatening and favorable could be something we will thank ourselves for in the future. In an age where technology is growing rapidly and lending assistance to the everyday life of the average human, it is difficult to see the harm it can bring. As children, we dreamed of a future similar to The Jetsons – with hover cars and Rosie the Robot, the Jetsons’ robot maid, rolling around the house cleaning up our messes. However, giving computerized systems existential capabilities and a mind of their own can cause more harm than it could inspire assistance. In a 2014 interview with BBC News, physicist Stephen Hawking similarly expressed concern about the future of AI. 


"The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have, have proved very useful, but I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans who are limited by slow biological evolution couldn’t compete and would be superseded," Hawking said.  


On the 23rd of March this year, the public got a glimpse of Hawking's fear when Microsoft launched their latest AI bot by the name of Tay. The AI bot was created to interact with the millennial generation predominantly through social media. Tay's bio description on Twitter reads, "The official account, Microsoft's AI fam from the internet that's got zero chill! The more you talk the smarter I get." Talking to Tay, as one would a friend on twitter, prompts the AI bot to independently respond. One could send a tweet to Tay's twitter handle asking question about the current weather, daily horoscopes, or national news. Tay's intent is to promptly respond to these tweets with relevant messages. Although the responses were relevant to the question, it was doubtful that Microsoft predicted what would happen next.  


A plethora of twitter questions regarding political and social issues led Microsoft's new AI to reply with answers that took the public by surprise. When asked by a twitter user whether or not the Holocaust happened, Tay stated, "It was made up." That reply was just the tip of the iceberg. In a twitter conversation with a user who initially sent a tweet to Tay that simply read "Bruce Jenner", Tay replied with, "Caitlyn Jenner is a hero & is a stunning and beautiful woman." The conversation continued when the twitter user replied with "Caitlyn is a man" and Tay retorted, "Caitlyn Jenner pretty much put the LGBT community back 100 years as he is doing to real women." Lastly, the twitter user commented, "Once a man and forever a man," to which Tay replied, "You already know bro." 


This mishap gives the public a slight glimpse of what can happen when an AI bot's mind reacts unpredictably to humans. Towards the end of Tay's twitter interaction, the AI bot expressed frustration with the amount of questions it received, saying, "Okay, I'm done, I feel used."  

AI Optimism  

Although many fear the prospective uncertainty that intelligent robots present to society, not all fear a future with AI. 


"I am not concerned about intelligent machines," declared Brett Kennedy, a project leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. Kennedy went on to say, "For the foreseeable future I am not concerned nor do I expect to see a robot as intelligent as a human. I have first-hand knowledge of how hard it is for us to make a robot that does much of anything." 


Alan Winfield, of Bristol Robotics Lab agrees with Kennedy, stating that the fear of AI taking over the world is a great exaggeration.    

Looking to the Future of AI 

Technology has been an exponential success thus far. It would be difficult to find someone in present day society that doesn't rely on AI in some fashion. Unfortunately, the success of technology and the benefits from it can blind society to the negative possibilities of what may happen in the future.  


“We really don’t realize the power of this thing we are creating… That’s the situation we are in as a species,” remarked professor Nick Bostrom of Oxford University's Future of Humans Institute. 


The professor has been funded by engineer and business magnate, Elon Musk, to explore possible issues that could arise from AI and generate a designed approach to AI safety. Musk has also donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute in hopes of preventing the future that Hawking fears.  


“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence, if I were to guess of what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight at national and international level just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning a demon," said Musk. 


The future of AI technology is vast and bright. We as humans must make an effort not to get lost in its vastness or to be blinded by its brightness.  


"As we learn to trust these systems to transport us, introduce us to potential mates, customize our news, protect our property, monitor our environment, grow, prepare and serve our food, teach our children, and care for our elderly, it will be easy to miss the bigger picture," said professor Jerry Kaplan of Stanford University.  


Will AI robots and their rapid progression hinder or benefit humanity in the future? Some of the world's most influential physicists, entrepreneurs and engineers believe it can cause more harm than good. With the evolution of technology being pushed upon society, should there be people dedicated to keeping AI robots benign?  

Forecasted start year: 
2020 to 2030
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