Ever since the invention of the computer, mankind has always been determined to strive forward and innovate with gadgets, technology and lifestyle, including the creation of artificial intelligence (or colloquially, AI). Our renowned scientists all around the world specialising in software engineering have been improving AI and making it user friendly for the public or for commercial use; from the popular ‘Siri’ by Apple Inc to ‘Watson’ by IBM. But by advancing AI by the second, what would that mean for us humans if AI becomes self conscious? Is the development of Artificial Intelligence a threat to mankind?
Now, this may sound something from a Sci-Fi Thriller but in reality this is becoming truer with every second passing by us. Recently, last year, Facebook’s famous ‘chat bots’ started having a ‘conversation’ with each other, but not in English. It sounded like what would be passed off as random gibberish at first, but was almost sounding like human speech. The bots were imitating human speech, made their own language and began communicating with each other. Facebook shut down the communication and started a diagnosis for the bots for any faults. This is what software engineers and scientists, such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking feared. In fact, Elon Musk, a business magnate, inventor and engineer, had an argument with the CEO and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg about the imminent threat. Zuckerburg said there was nothing to worry about, whereas Musk thought otherwise.
‘Our interest was having bots who could talk to people,’ Mike Lewis of Facebook’s FAIR (Facebook AI Research Lab) told ‘Fast Co Design’. This may have been Facebook’s objective, but at the rate at which our scientists are moving, this has already become a reality. British AI Scientist Rollo Carpenter has created a web-based chatbot himself, which is known as ‘Cleverbot’. You can have long conversations with this chatbot without the lack of continuity. In fact, the Cleverbot project started way back in 1988 and then became open to the public to use in 1997!
So how long will it be when AI gains consciousness and emotions? In my honest opinion, it shouldn’t take longer than a decade. But from the real brains from Silicon Valley, Harvard and Cambridge? They don’t know. They don’t know because despite the rate of development of Artificial Intelligence it could take centuries for AI to be self aware. Our greatest philosophers haven’t figured out our sentience, our reason for being, having emotions, morals, sentiments. Hence, some believe that if we don’t know how we feel, we won’t know how to make machines feel.
Some people think that if AI becomes self aware, the real danger is that they may take form of a mechanical body, but the real danger is that they don’t need a body. You read right- AI has the potential to become a fatal threat regardless of whether they use a mechanical body or not. This is because most of AI is digital and online, so is our personal information. AI can access your personal data, produce their own algorithms, and then can use it as leverage against you. This may sound like Artificial Intelligence has gained sentience this way- it hasn’t. Machines and software internally are not able to produce emotions.
AI being digital is a threat even to the world’s most secure governments, such as the United States. The government contains nuclear launch codes that can be used to fire nuclear missiles upon nations such as India, China, and Russia! This is could lead to World War 3 if AI goes rogue.
To conclude, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to end mankind but we must keep it under our watch list and make sure it doesn’t get too much access to sensitive information that would be our ticket to extinction.
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