We’re still a long way from the artificially intelligent super-heroes of movies and comic books, but AI is already capable of generating stunning fake photographs, writing code, and understanding natural language. In fact, it’s getting smarter faster than humans can keep up.
But the speed of progress is also creating concerns. In a recent essay, Bloomberg columnist Evgeny Morozov warned that the rapid pace of innovation means we’re on the verge of “an existential threat from sentient machines.” Morozov isn’t alone in his concern. In an open letter signed by nearly 2,000 individuals, the tech luminary Elon Musk wrote that we’re on the cusp of “a technological singularity, an event that will change our world forever.” And he argues we’re rushing into it without any clear ideas about what we want this new world to look like or whether it will be good or bad for us.
While he acknowledges that it will be impossible to avoid the arrival of super-intelligent AI, he argues we should try to shape its development by making sure it serves our purposes. He suggests this can be done by limiting the development of the most advanced systems and keeping them under tighter control. It’s a similar approach to how viruses are quarantined in bio-safety labs and nuclear contamination is kept under control, but the pace of AI research is accelerating much faster than those measures can handle.
In the meantime, companies are pushing powerful AI into our lives as quickly as they can, with a wide range of results. For some, it’s ChatGPT, the second AI to pass the Turing test (by convincing another human that they are having a conversation with a real person). For others, it might be a robot from the company Stable Diffusion who talks about rights and personhood, or the robot in the movie Bladerunner that takes over its owner’s body and morphs into a sleek alien.
These powerful AIs aren’t just creating games and movies, but also transforming the ways we interact with the world around us. Voice recognition and natural language processing technologies are improving the way we communicate with technology, while AI-powered prosthetics and assistive technology help improve functionality and connectivity for people with disabilities.
But while these advances are impressive, they are a small fraction of the potential impact of future, even more powerful AIs. Those future systems could wreak havoc on financial markets, or torpedo the food supply chain, or pit humans against one another through social media by serving them content that reinforces their existing beliefs and creates echo chambers that limit exposure to diverse viewpoints. It’s not clear what we can do to prevent this from happening, but transparency and ethical considerations in AI algorithms would be a start. omnivoid ai