Autonomy: the real artificial intelligence threat

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Artificial intelligence has always had a bad rap when it comes to depictions of it in television, film, and literature. It seems humans have a tendency to expect the worst possible outcome when they visualize a future where artificial intelligence is a part of our day-to-day lives. In most depictions, artificial intelligence quickly surpasses human intelligence and uses that advantage to attempt to destroy the entire species. While everyone pretty much recognizes that these films and books are science fiction, there are plenty who do believe in the real possibility of an artificial intelligence takeover. And though many of these peopleís opinions might be written off as the delusions of a crazy conspiracy theorist, other voices are harder to ignore. Some of scienceís most brilliant minds like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk as well as many AI researchers have all warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence. Hawking even went so far as to say that full artificial intelligence could mean the end of the human race.

Is artificial intelligence really dangerous?

At a recent conference, Tom Dietterich, president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, stressed that artificial intelligence in itself isnít really dangerous. What the general publicóthose who havenít dedicated years to study artificial intelligenceódoesnít understand is that artificial intelligence canít suddenly alter its programming to turn against humans as they often do in Hollywood depictions of artificial intelligence. The real danger is in the programming theyíre given to begin with.

Humans still humanityís greatest threat

What Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk really fear isnít artificial intelligence, but the humans tasked with creating and programming it. AI is nothing but intelligence software that can enable machines to imitate the more complex human behaviors. Full artificial intelligence, which we have so far been unable to create is software that perfectly imitates human behavior and can surpass human intelligence. But either way, artificial intelligence is still limited to its programming.

The real threat of artificial intelligence is the autonomy, or freedom that humans give it. According to AI researches. Autonomy isnít something that occurs naturally with artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence couldnít simply takeover our weapons systems like they often do in movies in order to wipe out humanity. Artificial intelligence only handles the tasks we give them. If humans grant them autonomy with weapon systems, then there is danger. What Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk are urging is that humans be careful about what tasks they assign to artificial intelligence and what tasks they leave to humans. Even more importantly, they urge that humans develop a method of control so that humans retain control over artificial intelligence.

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