When someone begins speaking about robots taking over the world, most would label that person as a conspiracy theorist, or a sci-fi nerd.
Not many would think that such a sentiment would be voiced by a world renowned and highly reputed scientist like Dr. Stephen Hawking.
However, just this past week, Dr. Hawking explained his belief that artificial intelligence (AI) has a very real chance of surpassing human intelligence.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the development of computer programs with similar abilities to human intelligence, such as voice recognition, speech, or decision-making. Whether you realize it or not, AI is all around us. From movie characters like R2-D2 to real-world examples like Siri, humans have imagined and—in many cases—created technology that has the abilities to perform human tasks.
When AI was first created, it was nowhere near as complex as it is today. In 1956, scientists and students attended a conference at Dartmouth College where they discussed the concept. At this conference, the term “artificial intelligence” was coined. The conference led to a boom in AI development, mostly occurring at Dartmouth.
Early AI programs used similar algorithms to accomplish tasks such as playing games or solving math problems. Today, almost 60 years later, AI has come a long way. For example, computers are now capable of beating humans at chess. In addition, you may have seen Watson defeat two Jeopardy! champions on television.
According to most computer scientists, this evolution in AI is inevitable. Moore’s Law—a well-known and highly regarded theory of computer development—predicts that computer speed and memory doubles every ten years. This exponential growth suggests that computer scientists are not slowing down their research any time soon.
Two Views Of The Future
With this increase in the capabilities of AI, many leading scientists hypothesize that AI will overtake human intelligence. From there, the question arises: What does this mean for the future of mankind?
According to Hawking, once the human advancement of technology reaches a certain threshold, computers will have the ability to evolve and develop on their own. And if computers are in control of their own evolution, they will certainly evolve faster than humans, who are limited by natural biological evolutio. They would eventually have more capabilities than even the humans that created them. Elon Musk, the CEO of the car company Tesla, strongly advocates that humans beware of the potential of artificial intelligence. He even went as far as to say that AI could be “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”
But not everyone is so negative with regard to the effect of highly developed technology on humans. Some computer scientists believe that AI can be a good thing. Charlie Ortiz, at the software company Nuance Communication, feels that increased AI might be useful to solve current problems that human intelligence cannot. There is no reason to assume that AI will work to harm us even if it becomes more complex than human intelligence.
Critical Thinking: What do you think - could AI spell the end of the human race if machines become smarter than humans?