Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Are we getting too hysterical about the dangers of artificial intelligence?

It is certainly true that A.I. might take away the current jobs of people like lawyers and radiologists who scan data looking for patterns, or those who are now doing tasks that can be accomplished by defined algorithms. A series of articles, such as those by and about Yuval Harari, predict that most of us will become a human herd manipulated by digital overlords that know more about us than we know about ourselves.  These have to be taken very seriously. (See, for example "Watch Out Workers, Algorithms Are Coming to Replace You — Maybe,"Tech C.E.O.s Are in Love With Their Principal Doomsayer," and "Why Technology Favors Tyranny")

However, there are arguments that one fear - that machines having a general flexible human like intelligence really similar or even superior to our own will render common humans obsolete - is not yet even remotely realistic. The current deep learning algorithms sifting deep data for patterns and connections work at the level of our unconscious cognition, and don't engage context, ambiguity, and alternative scenarios in the way that our cognitive apparatus can. One can find some solace in how easy it is to fool A.I. sophistical pattern recognition systems (see "Hackers easily fool artificial intelligence") and how hapless A.I. systems are in dealing with the actual meaning of what they are doing, or why they are doing it (See "Artificial Intelligence Hits the Barrier of Meaning". Intelligence is a measure of ability to achieve a particular aim, to deploy novel means to attain a goal, whatever it happens to be, the goals are extraneous to the intelligence itself. Being smart is not the same as wanting something. Any level of intelligence — including superintelligence — can be combined with just about any set of final goals — including goals that strike us as stupid.

One clip from the last link noted above, a choice quote from A.I. researcher Pedro Domingos:
People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.

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