The AI is like the symbol of the god Janus, that of the two faces: one is the hope of machines that can help Humanity to improve, to take care of the mundane and heavy tasks so that humans can create, think, learn faster and move along.
The other, however, can be summarized perfectly in Skynet, that god-computer foreseen on the saga ‘Terminator’ which has tormented writers, scientists, engineers and doomsayers from around the world for decades with the conclusion that someday robots could be as intelligent as humans. When the Deep Blue computer won a game of chess to Gary Kasparov, many took their hands to the head. The great threat was finally here.
It could also be an almost perfect logic and practical solution for Humanity, which would be free to evolve towards a higher state of consciousness, of knowledge and even consider colonizing space without problems. The reality, however, is very likely to be between the two extremes, at some diffuse gray point in the middle.
Because it is an unstoppable development: Google, MIT, the US Army, the major industrial robotics and European, Japanese and Chinese development firms have opted for AI as a useful solution for the future. They will produce more with less, they will liberate the human being, they will allow much greater efforts and, above all, they could serve to complete the human being and turn it into an unsurpassed biomechanical duo.
Nick Bostrom, who is part of the Institute for the Human Future of the University of Oxford, made it very clear in his ‘Superintelligence: roads, dangers, strategies’: a machine could overcome its programmer, free itself from its control and try to dominate the stage, behaving like a biological way of life without being one. If the interests of that AI are different from those of Humanity, it could well “make its own plans”.
Developers from Google’s AI Deep Mind program, have proven that the AI they handle can have an instinct of competition, almost bordering homicide. They put two of their artificial “neural” networks to compete, and discovered that when they ran out of options and there was no choice but to fight for resources they opted for extreme solutions. That is to say: murderous instinct.
Jerry Kaplan, one of the gurus of Silicon Valley and the technological developments of recent years, able to anticipate the iPad long before it was born (in fact Nokia and its failed prototype and Apple were based on his ideas), assures that the IA will be a determining factor in the “leap forward” of Humanity throughout this century.
As he said in an interview to Washington Post last year, automation is a process that comes from afar, (since twentieth-century post-war period) will grow in popularity, reaching even third world small villages and won’t stop no matter how much fear society has. But he argues that AI will allow more efficient and effective use of resources; nevertheless, warns that we will live in automated societies where employment will be “intellectual“, that is, humans will work thinking and establishing services among others.
The production will be mechanical, at all levels. Kaplan understands that driverless cars are a principle. According to him, it will be necessary to wait another 20 years before it is generalized in a reliable way. A phrase from Kaplan sums it up: “My grandchildren are not going to have to learn to drive. If they do it will be for fun, to compete in races between humans.”
Finally, we can expect current hype and consequent public interest the seed that will grow into a new use of AI as an innovative weapon of elitism; only the upper classes and most developed countries could finance and enjoy their benefits and divide Humanity between those who have access to that technology and those who don’t. Thus the AI would become the social weapon of the elites to remain so, in a cycle of personal benefit inaccessible to the rest of the citizens.
There would be two Humanities, one of automatization and technology, and another of underprivileged people with more conventional advances. There is no utopia or dystopia that endures the final test of fire, human nature itself, always so elusive to good sense and generosity. Then it won’t matter if there is AI or not since it will simply be just another social trench added to the rest.
We all want to choose the easiest option, go the shortest ways, use a pick-up line instead of talking, choosing to pay for paper writing services instead of spending hours on writing your own essay and so on. It’s normal human behaviour to make things easy, but is it good long term? The future will show.