12/09/2014

Artificial Intelligence and Our Moral Obligations

The Manhattan project brought together the best and brightest minds of the generation.  Their goal was to assemble the 'atomic' bomb.  The scientist involved were held in the highest regard for their knowledge and expertise.  They were focused on completing the assigned project.  Which may or may not have left time to look further downstream.  As to the moral implications of their work.

When the bombs were eventually dropped, celebration ensued the masses, America had won the war and displayed their mighty power for all the world to see.  How did the scientist feel about their undertaking.  We don't know really, as many or most have since died off.  We do know that many of them were pacifist and strong opponents to war and killing.  Yet they worked on the project regardless.

Which led us into the cold war with Russia.  And the nukes available today, we could potentially destroy the planet.

Artificial Intelligence has been around since the 1940s with its inventor, Alan Turing.  Although Charles Babbage created the first computer, Turning solved the problem of deciphering the German Enigma messages during the war.  He used logic as the basis of having a machine interpret instructions to solve problems which would take a human a very long time.  After he cracked the code and the war was over, he went on to architect his vision of the brain machine, called the Ace.  It took 5 years for the first prototype, so he is considered the father Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence or AI as commonly referred to, did not make much progress during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.  However, due to the increase in processing power of computers, the large volumes of data, AI has been making a strong comeback.  We have build some massive Neural Networks which are sort of computer brains which you can teach, they remember events and outcomes and learn over time.

We have facial recognition systems, we can predict events in the future based on passed performance, we can answer many many questions as in IBM's Big Blue computer.  AI has made leaps and bounds.

But for a computer to really have AI capabilities, it must pass the Turing Test, which is to have judges ask the respondent a series of questions.  In order for the machine to pass, the judges must not be able to differentiate between the computer and a real person.  To this date, no computer has officially passed the test.

However, once it does, it will have crossed over into the Singularity.  When computers take a life of their own, when they have feelings, when they can determine meaning behind phrases, when they can interpret and display real emotions, they will give the humans a run for their money.  For one thing, robots with AI brains would displace many aspects of the bipedal apelike creature called the Homo Sapien.  Robots don't take vacations, smoke breaks, require insurance, can work 24/7, don't have to be fed, so you can clearly see, there are benefits in the rise of the Robotic AI beings.

Now some people will state that there is nothing to fear.  For me I'm all for new advents in technology.  However, like the scientists who created the A-Bomb, there are moral implications for creating a new race on planet earth.  And those obligations must not be tossed aside in profit at all costs.  Like the violinist who played while the Titanic ship sank, so too, are we allowing AI to be developed without some guidelines in place.  For when the time comes, in the not too distant future, we develop true AI, it will be too late.  As we all know, technology can be used for good or evil, depending on who's in charge.  If Human are to remain the alpha on planet earth, we really should go with caution on developing Artificial Intelligence and a new race of Robots who could replace us.

And there you have it, my two cents worth.