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What Did Prof. Hawking Say on AI?

When the English physicist Stephen Hawking said in his interview that AI could spell the end of the human race, it stirred debates on the feasibility of his idea. It is not just Hawking, but Elon Musk, the Canadian American businessman and many others share the same thoughts, while denied by the proponents of artificial intelligence.

The magnitude of the issues faced when artificial intelligence ends up in a catastrophe is beyond our comprehension. Simultaneously, how strong are the proponents’ claims? With a little understanding, it can be seen that their arguments can lead to the conclusion that Professor Hawking made.  There are already a lot of hints that artificial intelligence will start revolutionizing our lives on a bigger scale in the next twenty years, as did industrial and mobile revolution before, but with a lesser dread.

Those revolutions had little at stake when compared to this digital sixth sense that is being fabricated at the finest computer laboratories. There is a big dilemma that exists when talking about the impacts artificial intelligence is going to have in our lives. 

There are already many types of artificial intelligence based robots in use. The first machine that was able to interact with human beings was from Apple, Siri personal assistant and later on many tech giants started making use of such machines. Amelia, another artificial intelligence based machine has the intelligence level of a six year old girl and will work with two oil companies Baker Hughes and Shell. She can understand human emotions and respond accordingly and also has the ability to learn from her experiences that she gains from the events and happenings around. 

The proponents of artificial intelligence in their support has never denied the possibility of a catastrophe, but argued that such a powerful level of artificial intelligence is far from our reach. That doesn’t mean such a level of Super Artificial Intelligence (ASI) will never happen, and this basic level of artificial intelligence like that in Amelia, is nothing but a prototype for the futuristic super intelligent systems. 

Even Stephen Hawking appreciated the current level of artificial intelligence by saying that the primitive forms we have are very useful. On the second part of his argument what he meant by artificial intelligence was Super Artificial Intelligence when he said, “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate”.

And we are sure that he knows humans have already developed artificial intelligence.  Ironically, the speech synthesizer that helps him put his thoughts across is also based on an artificial intelligence system and from this misinterpretation (stated above) we can imagine that machines can never understand and do what the humans think and how erroneous could their actions be. 

Moreover, the prototype systems we have been talking about are not as basic as we think. A neural network that functions like a short term memory of a human brain has been developed by DeepMind, which was later bought by Google at $400 million.  And there have been a lot of investments made in artificial intelligence by all the major tech giants. Google has a lot to do with artificial intelligence in its self driven cars and mobile assistants.

Elon Musk himself has made investments along with Mark Zuckerberg and actor Ashton Kutcher in artificial intelligence projects.  With all these investments and efforts pouring in, human interest will not let go off artificial intelligence so quickly driven by curiosity.

All these facts suggest that, if not in the immediate future, we are trying to teach machines, logics and emotions and make them behave like human beings, without realizing the consequences. The computational power of comprehension that we feed them would be much powerful than that nature would have given us, thus enabling them to think several times faster than us. 

As once a machine starts thinking like a human being, it will work along the lines of a Hollywood movie plot, as we have seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey, i-robot and many others- machines with super intelligence colluding against human interests.

Our curiosity to create a secondary form of human beings has the potential and can very well land us in a serious form of danger.  Is this what Stephen Hawking meant about AI? Possibly!

Image Source: CNBC

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