“We have only bits and pieces of information. But what we know for certain, is that at some point in the early 21st century all of mankind was united in celebration. We marvelled at our own magnificence as we gave birth to AI…a singular consciousness that spawned an entire race of machines.” – Morpheus, The Matrix.
Humanity has pondered this question for a while now. At first it seemed outlandish, and its outlandishness was exaggerated by the numerous iterations of AI takeovers appearing in fictional works. In the modern world, it feels more like a question of ‘when’ than ‘if’.
We have witnessed the implementation of technologies such as self-checkout machines, and we understand that machines really could make us obsolete some day. Pair this with the developments being made by companies such as Boston Dynamics, whose robots can do gymnastics. Then combine the dire warning from Stephen Hawking, that AI could ‘spell the end of the human race’, and what you’ve got is some justifiable anxiety about a robot rebellion. Humans are always creating things that have the power to destroy us though; relatively recently we had the same anxiety about atom bombs, which has just started to subside.
Artificial intelligence poses a very real threat to humanity because once it reaches our level of intelligence it will advance beyond our level at an ever-increasing speed – an event termed ‘the singularity’. Once artificial intelligence reaches this point an intellectual chasm will be created between us. The creation of AI has been described in all kinds of creative and terrifying ways, with Elon Musk saying we are ‘summoning the demon’. What seems quite certain, is that the creation of AI will signal the creation of a super-advanced entity that will be entirely alien to us, whether it’s good or bad.
Will there be a takeover?
While some people think of the potential takeover as being like The Terminator or The Matrix movies, others believe it will be more of a case of machines making human labour obsolete. This is inevitable to a certain extent. Machines do make certain kinds of labour obsolete; while they do create some jobs, they eliminate them at a faster rate. This means that as technology progresses, there will be a net loss of jobs year-on-year.
Human ingenuity should never be underestimated though, and as we approach these new challenges, any number of possibilities could open up for us. There are even evolutionary psychologists who believe that a superintelligent AI would likely want to coexist with us peacefully. The truth is, we have no idea what will happen when AI is born, because nothing even remotely similar has occurred before.
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