We have been inundated with prognostications that artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robots will take all of our jobs. But in recent years, billionaire entrepreneur, investor, and inventor Elon Musk has warned about the rise of AI and how it could destroy the planet. According to Musk, AI has the power to transform our world into something out of “Terminator” as “people see robots going down the street killing people.” Suffice to say, Musk’s views on AI and robots are gloomy – but not everyone maintains an ominous stance on AI in our society. In fact, some – a like Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg – believe robots can improve our quality of life.
Zuckerberg doesn’t think that AI is an “existential threat to human civilization.” When asked about Musk and his fear of the future of AI during a Facebook Live over the weekend, Zuckerberg responded:
I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic. I think you can build things and the world gets better. But with AI especially, I am really optimistic.
And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.
Zuckerberg added that AI is going to provide mankind with many improvements and enhance our standard of living. He cited automobile accidents as one of the top causes of death for people, which he thinks can be eliminated with the assistance of AI. The social media pioneer did concede that technology can be used for good and bad, but says it depends on how you build it:
Whenever I hear people saying AI is going to hurt people in the future, I think yeah, you know, technology can generally always be used for good and bad, and you need to be careful about how you build it and you need to be careful about what you build and how it is going to be used.
But people who are arguing for slowing down the process of building AI, I just find that really questionable. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that.
Musk didn’t take too kindly to Zuckerberg’s sanguinity. He shot back on Twitter:
I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2017
Man has worried over the rise of the machine for nearly a century. The introduction of the word “robot” into the English language stems from the 1920 science fiction play called “R.U.R.” The Karel Capek play ultimately established the idea that robots will certainly rebel against human beings and kill them all. Moreover, the concept of robots has been around for centuries: in 400 BC, Archytas of Tarentum hypothesized the idea of a robotic bird fueled by steam power; in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci penned diagrams of a robot knight moving its body; and in 1738, Jacques de Vaucanson created a mechanical duck.
Thanks to the media and doom and gloom scientists, the average person likely has an irrational and unfounded anxiety of AI and autonomous robots. Perhaps it’s fear of the unknown, and legendary physicist Michio Kaku says that fear is healthy, as men eventually realize in practice that it’s “a step forward.”
Before automation, 99% of the population lived and worked on farms. Automation took away 99% of those jobs. But are we worse off for it? Of course we aren’t. Humans were freed to innovate, pursue jobs they find interesting and improve their standard of living. Because of automation, we became baseball players, violinists, playwrights, physicists, and chefs.
Automation exists in every aspect of our lives – and we’re better off for it. Sure, they may not be robots from “Terminator” or “Artificial Intelligence,” but the automation of today consists of air conditioners, computers, and smartphones. Who wouldn’t want this?
Whether you call it automation or robots, businesses utilize these elements to boost production levels. Microsoft Office is one of the greatest pieces of software ever invented. It not only increased production but it also enlarged the pie –allowing everyone to take a slice.
Now, you may surmise that what Musk is talking about is entirely different from a word processor or a tractor trailer. Well, let’s briefly explore the advancements and intricacies of AI.
Today, there are two common issues that scientists contend with: pattern recognition and common sense. It is safe to say that they are gradually solving pattern recognition, but they can’t program common sense. Therefore, there will be plenty of jobs in the future that require common sense – like analysis, humor, leadership, and entertainment.
Another issue that futurologists and philosophers discuss is emotion, something that autonomous robots lack. Scientists note that they will need to hardwire the robots’ brains to feel emotion, which is where you can entirely avoid the robot-turning-on-man worry. You can program the robots so that they are not evil, angry or rude; instead, they can be virtuous, happy and polite all the time. Since it will be decades before robots have the intelligence of an animal, scientists now have the opportunity to study and monitor this progress.
Yes, computers will surpass us in intelligence. Yes, robots will drive our cars, perform our surgeries and make healthy junk food. Yes, AI will change the makeup of our planet – just like the automobile, desktop computer and smartphone did. But, no, we should not fear an apocalypse led by the machine.
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