At the turn of the century, it’s likely few, if any, could anticipate the many ways artificial intelligence would later affect our lives.
Take Emotional Robot with Intelligent Network, or ERWIN, for example. He’s designed to mimic human emotions like sadness and happiness in order to help researchers understand how empathy affects human-robot connections. When ERWIN works with Keepon—a robot who looks eerily similar to a real person—scientists gather data on how emotional responses and body language can foster meaningful relationships in an inevitably droid-filled society. Increasingly, robots are integrating into our lives as laborers, therapeutic and medical tools, assistants and more.
While some predict mass unemployment or all-out war between humans and artificial intelligence, others foresee a less bleak future.
The Machine-Man Coexistence
Professor Manuela Veloso, head of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, is already testing out the idea on the CMU campus, building roving, segway-shaped robots called “cobots” to autonomously escort guests from building to building and ask for human help when they fall short. It’s a new way to think about artificial intelligence, and one that could have profound consequences in the next five years.
There will be a co-existence between humans and artificial intelligence systems that will be hopefully of service to humanity. These AI systems will involve software systems that handle the digital world, and also systems that move around in physical space, like drones, and robots, and autonomous cars, and also systems that process the physical space, like the Internet of Things.
You will have more intelligent systems in the physical world, too — not just on your cell phone or computer, but physically present around us, processing and sensing information about the physical world and helping us with decisions that include knowing a lot about features of the physical world. As time goes by, we’ll also see these AI systems having an impact on broader problems in society: managing traffic in a big city, for instance; making complex predictions about the climate; supporting humans in the big decisions they have to make.
Digital – The Ultimate Catalyst to Accelerate AI
A lot of [AI] research in the early days was actually acquiring [that] knowledge. We would have to ask humans. We would have to go to books and manually enter that information into the computer.
in the last few years, more and more of this information is digital. It seems that the world reveals itself on the internet. So AI systems are now about the data that’s available and the ability to process that data and make sense of it, and we’re still figuring out the best ways to do that. On the other hand, we are very optimistic because we know that the data is there.
The question now becomes, how do we learn from it? How do you use it? How do you represent it? How do you study the distributions — the statistics of the data? How do you put all these pieces together? That’s how you get deep learning and deep reinforcement learning and systems that do automatic translation and robots that play soccer. All these things are possible because we can process all this data so much more effectively and we don’t have to take the enormous step of acquiring that knowledge and representing it. It’s there.
Rules of Coexistence
As of late, discussions have run rampant about the impact of intelligent systems on the nature of work, jobs and the economy. Whether it is self-driving cars, automated warehouses, intelligent advisory systems, or interactive systems supported by deep learning, these technologies are rumored to first take our jobs and eventually run the world.
There are many points of view with regard to this issue, all aimed at defining our role in a world of highly intelligent machines but also aggressively denying the truth of the world to come. Below are the critical arguments of how we’ll coexist with machines in the future:
Machines Take Our Jobs, New Jobs Are Created
Some arguments are driven by the historical observation that every new piece of technology has both destroyed and created jobs. The cotton gin automated the cleaning of cotton. This meant that people no longer had to do the work because a machine enabled the massive growth of cotton production, which shifted the work to cotton picking. For nearly every piece of technology, from the steam engine to the word processor, the argument is that as some jobs were destroyed, others were created.
Machines Only Take Some Of Our Jobs
A variant of the first argument is that even if new jobs are not created, people will shift their focus to those aspects of work that intelligent systems are not equipped to handle. This includes areas requiring the creativity, insight and personal communication that are hallmarks of human abilities, and ones that machines simply do not possess. The driving logic is that there are certain human skills that a machine will never be able to master.
A similar, but more nuanced argument portrays a vision of man-machine partnerships in which the analytical power of a machine augments the more intuitive and emotional skills of the human. Or, depending on how much you value one over the other, human intuition will augment a machine’s cold calculations.
Machines Take Our Jobs, We Design New Machines
Finally, there is the view that as intelligent machines do more and more of the work, we will need more and more people to develop the next generation of those machines. Supported by historical parallels (i.e. cars created the need for mechanics and automobile designers), the argument is that we will always need someone working on the next generation of technology. This is a particularly presumptuous position as it is essentially technologists arguing that while machines will do many things, they will never be able to do what technologists do.
But Could Coexistence Exist Eternally?
These are all reasonable arguments above, and each one has its merits. But they are all based on the same assumption: Machines will never be able to do everything that people can do, because there will always be gaps in a machine’s ability to reason, be creative or intuitive. Machines will never have empathy or emotion, nor have the ability to make decisions or be consciously aware of themselves in a way that could drive introspection.
These assumptions have existed since the earliest days of A.I. They tend to go unquestioned simply because we prefer to live in a world in which machines cannot be our equals, and we maintain control over those aspects of cognition that, to this point at least, make us unique.
But the reality is that from consciousness to intuition to emotion, there is no reason to believe that any one of them will hold. It is quite conclusive that the only alternative to the belief that human thought can be modeled on a machine is to believe that our minds are the product of “magic.” Either we are part of the world of causation or we are not. If we are, A.I. is possible.