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Friday, April 07, 2017

Science fiction is here | University of Sydney - Science and technology

"Workplace diversity will soon include artificial intelligence." writes Rebekah Hayden.

Dr Micheal Harre is thinking through how the AI future will work.
Photo: University of Sydney

A tsunami of change is already arriving. Artificial intelligence is now capable of doing desk jobs that were previously safe from automation. The social and economic effects remain to be seen, but is AI what we think it is?

Workplaces that include artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be reality, say researchers who believe the rise of AI in all areas of life is not only inevitable, it’s set to reshape the way we think about consciousness and human identity.

From Metropolis to 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Terminator, robots and super-intelligent AIs in film have seduced and terrified our collective consciousness, having an impact on how we view artificial intelligence. But will they really crush the puny humans and take over the world?

The truth is both less dramatic and more exciting.

Michael Harré (PhD ’09), AI enthusiast and lecturer in Complex Systems at the University of Sydney, believes living and working with AI will force us to reassess basic assumptions about our sense of self.

“What will it be like to regularly confront an AI, or a robot with an AI in it, that behaves like a human?” Harré asks. “The fact that we will be interacting with the appearance of consciousness in things that are clearly not biological will be enough for us to at least unconsciously revise what we think consciousness is.”

AI development has a long way to go before then. AI and humans have very different decision-making processes. Humans rely strongly on intuition, while AI crunches all possible options and calculates the most likely answer. All this data-crunching comes at a cost: the vast computational power that’s needed limits the number of tasks AI can do. It tends to be a one-trick pony. This means we won’t be relegated to the evolutionary scrapheap just yet.

Though movies often feature robots with sophisticated AI minds, that combination is still a distant possibility.

So what is AI? A very different discipline from robotics, artificial intelligence is a field of computer science that mimics the natural learning process of the human brain by creating what are called artificial neural networks. For example, an AI is given a picture of a wolf and told to trawl through millions of animal photos and find other pictures of wolves. Each correct answer reinforces the AI’s neural pathways, so it actually learns from experience. The software isn’t specifically coded – rather the program evolves its own algorithms and uses feedback to refine the results.

Source: University of Sydney