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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Op-Ed: Many are pessimistic about the consequences of AI | Digital Journal - Tech & Science

"Charles Modeas, EU Research Commissioner claims that the development of AI and thinking machines pose a threat to our existence risk confusing science with science fiction" according to Ken Hanly, retired philosophy professor.

Softbank's "Pepper" humanoid robots 'rest' before the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, on December 2, 2015.
Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP

Negative views of AI development predominate
In a speech to the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Group Modeas said:“If you do any research on artificial intelligence these days, the results are astonishingly pessimistic. Nine articles out of ten on AI are negative. Not just negative. Alarmist and panicked, sometimes even hysterical. For me, a techno-optimist, it's shocking. And very disappointing."

Commissioner Modeas is betting that AI research will be a positive force even though he admits that public fear of the technology appears to be deep. He thinks the public fears what is the most exciting new technology for our generation. To deny the amazing benefits it can bring is not the answer he claims.  

Possible negative effects of AI development 
Warnings about AI development have come from notables such as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and Elon Musk who argue that it could evolve to a point where it is beyond human control. Many critics also worry that robots with AI will take over jobs creating unemployment.  

Elon Musk's worries 
Musk who himself has been a prime contributor to technology both in electric vehicles and space rockets worries that competition for AI technology could lead to war as governments compete for superiority in weaponry using AI. However, it has surely always been the case that countries compete for technology especially technology that can be triumphant in warfare. This would be so whether AI developed or not. However, the development of AI will make this competition more dangerous.. 

Technology in the form of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs already show that it is imperative that we do everything we can to ensure that new AI technology is controlled. Musk's warning are very much based on reality. 

Will AI technology result in lost jobs? 
Another of Musk's worries was the loss of jobs. 

Economists Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo of the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at the historical effects of robots on employment in the US between 1990 and 2007 controlling for the influence of other factors. 

Their study showed that each new robot led to the loss of between 3 and 5.6 jobs in the local area. For each new robot added for 1,000 workers wages would also decline between 0.25 and 0.5 percent. 

The two researchers write: “Predictably, the major categories experiencing substantial declines are routine manual occupations, blue-collar workers, operators and assembly workers, and machinists and transport workers.” 

Steven Mnuchin, the US treasury secretary said that he was not worried about the effects of AI and automation on employment. Mnuchin said: “Quite frankly, I'm optimistic. I mean, that's what creates productivity." The productivity is increased because more is produced by each worker in conjunction with AI. However, the remaining workers will actually see their wages decline. The AI makes the firm more productive and usually more profitable as well. 

As more and more AI is used in production and elsewhere its negative effects on employment will likely be greater. 

Hawking's fears 
Stephen Hawking is a famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He suffers from a slow progressing but early onset type of ALS sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease. Wikipedia notes: "Hawking has a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that has gradually paralysed him over the decades. He now communicates using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech-generating device." 

Hawking is not averse to advanced technology. He uses such technology to communicate and could not talk without it.

Hawking's warning is dramatic. He has even said that the development of full AI could result in the end of the human race.
Read more... 

Additional resources  
CYBERSEC INSIGHTS 2017 - Janis Sarts on tackling fake news and propaganda

Source: Digital Journal and EUROPEAN CYBERSECURITY FORUM - CYBERSEC Channel  (YouTube)