Should We Fear Advances in Artificial Intelligence? (Part II)


AI (artificial intelligence) is increasingly pervading the lives of modern day people – and at an unprecedented rate. Approximately 50 years ago, both mobile telephones and televisions were at the cutting-edge of technology. Fast-forward to the current situation in the contemporary world, and we are faced with constantly evolving forms of devices, gadgets and social media tools. The rapidity with which modern technology is advancing is likely to show monumental progression in fields such as robotics and VR (virtual reality) within the coming years. But, is this progression to be invited, or feared?

The advantages of artificial intelligence are manifold – with the increasing stress of modern lives demanding that more mundane objects become automated, ultimately reducing the number of tasks we have to complete. A crucial danger arises, however, when the technology we invent to assist us taps into what we consider as the core of humanity; our autonomy. Albeit in the process of development still, the threat of artificial intelligence becoming programmed to the extent where it can perform tasks in a human-like manner is not entirely in the future. It looms at the forefront of current technology, with Stephen Hawking predicting as early as 2014 that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”.

Whilst artificial intelligence isn’t dangerous by design, the extent to which we incorporate it into our daily lives may be. With current AI such as Apple’s Siri function and Google-Now being commonplace in the majority of people’s lives (in developed countries), it’s due time we questioned the extent to which we should allow our lives to be automated by technology, and where we draw the line in inventing AI. Recent news headlines saw the trials for self-driving cars halted, as a vehicle struck a pedestrian, resulting in their death. This situation exemplifies the main issue at hand – artificial intelligence cannot react and adapt to changing surroundings in the same way that a human being can. If it were a human driving the aforementioned vehicle, they may have been able to see the pedestrian and avoid the collision. Whilst the prospect of self-driving cars would aim to decrease road-related mortalities through programmed speed limits and steering precision, it comes with the inability to adapt and learn.

Elon Musk stated in August 2015 during an AI panel in Silicon Valley: “It’s definitely going to happen. So if it’s going to happen, what’s the best way for it to happen?”. As the progression of artificial intelligence and technology continually gains pace, the time comes for us to question our own boundaries: to what extent should we let technological objects live our lives for us? If every mundane act were automated for ‘ease’, would that not remove the every-day colour and joy of life, changing the very concept of living as we know it?

Popular films depicting frenzied artificial intelligence such as ‘i-robot’, ‘A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Terminator’ aren’t going to be a living reality. Fret not, your household appliances will not acquire a sudden urge to decapitate you. But, it’s worth being aware of the technology that we allow to control our daily lives, and whether this dilutes the very concept of living.

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