Will Artificial Intelligence Save Us From Ourselves?
For years there has been a steady chorus about the hazards of Artificial Intelligence in the media. Great minds of the caliper of Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Nick Bostrom have professed that super intelligent machines are on the horizon. They have asserted that when they arrive humanity is in peril.
I don’t pretend to know it all about Machine Learning. I am only a student playing in a field of code. I still have difficulty accepting that machines could get angry and homicidal. This is because no one has adequately explained to me how code can develop human motivations. Your favorite video game characters are only hostile to you on account of their programming instructions. They are only imaginary actors reading a script written in C++, I’m guessing. Normally your game characters couldn’t recognize your frustration any more than you could decipher the console’s digital output.
It is my belief that this anxiety arises from three things.
First, you can’t really argue that people have always been anxious about the unknown. People once feared calamity at the sight of a comet. Today they are still worried about the future and this is evident by predictions for the apocalypse that keep reemerging every decade or two.
Second, even the best and brightest engineers get it wrong sometimes. This happens more often than many people like to admit. I’m confident that many have forgotten that the original iPhone was barely functional during Steve Jobs Macworld address in 2007. Nevertheless, a broken phone won’t ruin your day. More recently a woman died in Arizona after getting struck by an Uber autonomous vehicle. SpaceX’s has had its own problems with the highly successful Falcon 9 rocket. In September 2016 one booster spontaneously exploded on the launch pad.
Lastly, It is human nature to anthropomorphize objects in our environment. You probably do it, and it is very common for many people to seek security in their personal belongings and environment. One of the inevitable outcomes of this attachment is that we place human motivations onto inanimate objects.
I won’t pretend to foretell the future for you. Any words I speak are probably wildly inaccurate for events that have not yet come to pass. I do accept that Machine Learning is an emerging science that is still waiting for its breakthrough. You also can’t dismiss that all existing systems are very specialized and weak. Your Amazon Alexa can only obey your commands and answer questions. You might even permit it to unlock your door. The bot is restricted to only access circuits it is physically connected to. I am confident that human anxiety over smart machines is a symptom of our greater terror for the future.
I am far more afraid that humans are our own worst enemy. Only one week has passed since explosions rocked a nearby oil refinery in Superior Wisconsin. For still unknown reasons, the blast punctured and then ignited a storage tank of crude oil. The immense explosion was audible twenty miles away. The resulting fire raged for eight hours and cast a heavy black cloud over Superior like the aftermath of a nuclear detonation. The jury is still out as to the cause of the disaster, but from past events I’d guess that it was negligence.
Only eight years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded and sank. It is estimated that up to 210 million gallons of crude oil was spilled and continues to haunt the Gulf of Mexico to this day. The subsequent investigation showed that management had been improvising on safety in the months ahead of the explosion.
Five years ago the brakes on a petroleum train quit in Quebec Canada. The runaway train derailed in downtown Lac-Mégantic, releasing a hellfire that killed forty-seven and burnt out the city. The detectives later uncovered that the hand brakes on the rail cars had been wrongly set.
I could go on for some time. My point is that people can be really stupid sometimes. In “Are You Fucking Stupid?” Tiffany Sun suggests that nobody is stupid. They are only inexperienced, and it is these bloopers that mold us into the people we are.
I second that and suggest that people accept that each blunders is only a lesson. You will feel much better when you acknowledge that everyone has made embarrassing, tragic, and hilarious goofs in their lives and they will continue to. However maybe life doesn’t have to be that way? Today you probably wouldn’t consider a road trip without consulting Google Maps. Today it is conceivable and likely that Artificial Intelligence could soon save us from ourselves by automating the complex tasks of controlling industrial facilities. You don’t need to consult the prose of science fiction. The WorkFusions (RPA) Express tool is already available for free and can be instructed to replicate any task that you can accomplish on your PC. You only need the trust to accept that automation can be your friend.