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Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Do advances in AI pose an existential threat to humanity?

Worried about AI? You’re not alone. While doomsdaying about AI is not new, Vox reports that advances in machine-learning techniques give these concerns an edge. The past few years have seen major leaps and strides both in the field of narrow AI (teaching computers to play chess, generate images, or detect cancer) and in generalized learning capabilities.

This all sounds well and good — where’s the downside? Fears about AI run the gamut from making vast swathes of the workforce obsolete to destroying humanity as we know it. In one case close to our hearts, AI algorithms are changing the way we consume news, using micro-targeting to curate search results or keep us on a particular platform.

Are the most extreme scenarios plausible? Apparently that’s down to us. AI systems “pursue their goals, whether or not those goals are what we really intended — and whether or not we’re in the way.” In other words, we could unwittingly program AI such that it gets rid of us pesky humans, precipitating the end of humanity. This might sound outlandish but the field of AI public policy is relatively new, leaving plenty of space for innovative solutions and murderous robots.

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