Artificial intelligence (AI) is often portrayed in sci-fi movies as a human-like robot that is either the best friend you’ve always wanted or the mastermind behind human extinction. When in real life, it’s much simpler than that. AI can encompass anything from Google’s search algorithms to autonomous weapons.

There are many benefits and risks to AI, but both benefits and risks seem to be a long way from being attained. It is quite impossible to pinpoint the actual date the world will turn to a utopia where no one has to work or, on the other hand, an era of human enslavement. In fact, scientist and researchers do not even agree on the “achieve-ability” of both scenarios. For starters, there needs to be a super intelligent machine. All the machines we deal with currently are “narrow AI”, incapable of outsmarting humans. But for the sake of it, let us entertain the latter scenario. The prospect that machines are going to wake up and eradicate the human race is extremely low, but it’s still a prospect. To be more technical, machines are likely never going to become conscious or develop emotions. They are never going to be evil. But even if they do, it won’t matter to us. If you are being chased by a missile that’s only goal is to kill you, would you care if the missile is subjectively experiencing the chase? They are simply goal driven machines. The threat is whether or not those goals are aligned with ours. And if they are not, a machine that is super intelligent can be out of our control, and from there the possibilities are endless.

That’s why millions are being poured in to AI safety research to make sure machines remain “ethical” or at least complacent to humans. Some scientist believe the top priority is to have safety guidelines, and to make sure this all doesn’t get out of hands. Scientist like Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have issued statements of concern over AI. While other big names think the discourse surrounding AI should focus more on maximizing the benefits, since to them, the doomsday threats concerning AI belong in a Hollywood movie, not science. Nevertheless, it would not hurt to be prepared to face the negative consequences of the future, thus we can really enjoy the benefits of AI while avoiding the pitfalls.

It would be vital to note that, so far, everything previously mentioned is hypothetical. However, there is massive interest in AI and in developing AI. Considering the strives the human race has made in technology so far, it would be naïve to rule out the possibility of artificial super intelligence. However it may play out, it is apparent that the years to come will transform the way we live tremendously.

 

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