Does artificial intelligence foreshadow Utopia or Dystopia? Part II

Devices are now beginning to understand more than commands

Recapping the incredible benefits

We’ve all been heartened by news reports of amputees regaining arm and leg function with robotic mind-controlled prostheses. We know that AI-guided machines are already better than humans at navigation, data mining, search, even chess and Jeopardy! than humans…not to forget the pervasive impacts resulting from AI enhancements to our hearing, vision, transportation, manufacturing and entertainment.

And, as discussed in my last blog, parallel to and integrated with these advances are the increasing number of ‘external brain extenders,’ especially our smartphones, that we have so quickly come to take for granted. AI-integrated visual and auditory recognition systems like Siri and Kinect already allow us to interact with devices using voice and gestures.

Arguably the biggest downside to date

The NSA, an agency entrusted to protect the Constitution, has used AI-enhanced supercharged metadata tools to monitor millions phone calls and all of the Internet—including, of course, all email.

The near future

As these technologies advance, human – AI interaction is becoming increasingly more intuitive. Devices are now beginning to understand more than commands: they are now gaining the ability to sense emotions in our voices for more realistic, empathic responses. This new category of ‘living’ objects will interact with us very much like – and increasingly be indistinguishable from – living beings.

It should be noted that AI skeptics remain who are not completely convinced that AI computational breakthroughs will anytime soon be able to replicate the incredible complexity of the human brain. Nonetheless, major IT shakers and movers are betting on companies like Vicarious to achieve just that by, for starters, creating computers that can recognize the combination of objects, shapes, and even textures to begin that progression.

Pandora’s box

What’s the primary motive for AI investors? The hope of long-term profit, of course. If virtual, affordable, human brains can eventually be created, who wouldn’t want that technology for pharmaceutical, medical, and weapons development research?

The greatest emerging threat:

  • AI research and development will continue to focus heavily on weapons research and development. Super-intelligent, autonomous, weapons will likely be at least as aggressive as we are. When attack drones, for example, are given independent decision making power (already in development), who will be responsible for the death and destruction resulting from ‘AI mistakes?’
  • Over 50 nations are now developing battlefield drones and robots, initially, only rich countries will be able to afford that lethal power. But when that technology inevitably becomes much more affordable, it will also become available to terrorist groups and even individuals with twisted, destructive agendas.

Finally, will human beings with vastly expanded, AI-generated individual and collective intelligence retain the redemptive aspirations that define our spiritual natures?

The dystopian potential of advanced AI

Because human ethics continue to lag behind our technological advances, we need to be aware of the dystopian potential of these developments:

The scariest scenario: if and when AI evolves to the point it can autonomously improve upon its own capacities, it will develop unimaginable powers. AI machines will quickly develop defenses against any failure mode, including being switched off. They’ll actively, even aggressively, seek to acquire whatever resources they need to ensure survival with an agenda that may be no more enlightened than our own ( as seen in our species’ history of war, pervasive social problems and the despoliation of Earth’s environment).

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