Is Elon Musk right? Should we be scared of AI?

Written by on August 29, 2017 in Opinion with 0 Comments

When Ernest Rutherford split the atom, his motive was pure. He wanted to help mankind. When John McCarthy invented, or at least coined the term, ‘artificial intelligence’ he, too, had the good of mankind at heart.

When Einstein pressured Roosevelt to set up the Manhattan Project, he did so because he believed the Germans were advancing with their nuclear ambitions and the US, with support from the UK and others, should ramp up their response. We are still trying to undo the nuclear threat today.

Is the same happening with AI?

AI is obviously for good. The ITU host a summit entitled AI for Good. The range of applications for AI expands on a daily basis. Today, we reported that AI enabled drones will be patrolling beaches in Australia, on the look-out for sharks (the bitey, fishy kind). This will almost certainly save a life or two, or at least injury.

AI will be an important tool in the improvement of customer service, online trading, cyber security, frankly you name it.

Yet Elon Musk and others are actually rather worried that what started as an agent for good will be turned into an agent for bad. Very bad. In fact, it seems that part of Musk’s motivation to get to Mars is so that humanity has a bolt hole when the self learning version of AI gets to the point of realising that humans are inefficient and wasteful and generally ruining our planet (all true). It is also the reason, apparently, that Musk is so obsessed with his neural lace, that will cut out all the inefficient thumbs and fingers that are our input mechanism to the devices that have already made us into cyborgs, our phones, tablets and laptops.

While Musk has clearly become a doomsayer, and has corralled over 100 tech titans to lobby Governments to sign a treaty declaring that they will not use AI in acts of war, others will laugh and say ‘that era is behind us, surely’.

Some others of us might also say ‘too late’. We are certainly already using drones with intelligence to wage war.

Whether or not you believe that AI will turn us into a world, where we wage war in a weird virtual video game, while the destruction is actually happening, but somewhere else, it is something that we should take seriously.

After all, it has happened before, and at the same stage as we now find ourselves, many probably laughed at the concept that the new technology of the time could be used for destruction not creation.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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