Stephen Hawking has said that the greatest threat to humanity is artificial intelligence.
And here I thought it was ignorance.
He goes on to say that artificial intelligence will evolve far faster than the human brain, and at some point in the not too distant future, we will be beholden to it.
That suggests two things. One, that we are not beholden to it now and two, that artificial intelligence is artificial. Both could be argued readily right now.
Since many of us are locked and loaded when it comes to all our devices, I think we have already grown quite dependent on many forms of information sources that require connection. Maps and phone books have become a thing of the past as we Google our directions and Yelp people and places. More frequently of late we ask Siri, Alexa or Cortana anything at all and they respond politely and most often, correctly.
The newer cars have started to ask if it is time to take a break with a graphic of a coffee cup complete with steam. Good suggestion. Cars also are concerned for our welfare by keeping us from tailgating and making sure we fasten our seat belts. There are endless bells and whistles and of course self-driving cars are here to stay.
There is no doubt we have become quite reliant on all forms of electronics. One friend recently called and said she needed our address. She has come to visit us often, but in recent years she has lost any written form of address or directions. She has no need to rely on memory, because she will MapQuest it, but first she needs to enter it into her new phone.
I sent her the address in email or text and she plugged it in. No brain required, just machines. It reminds me of slide rules. They were considered state of the art, because the mathematical calculations could be done lickety-split. Which now seems like eons ago.
We then moved on to calculators, then computers and soon all you needed to know was how to turn on a hand-held machine. And turned on they are.
Speaking of turned on, there are multiple companies now offering sex robots. They used to be simplistic dolls of sorts, but now they have flesh like silicon, and they talk. Remember the movie “Her”? I never saw it, but I thought the whole concept was creepy. Now there is a backlog at the companies making lifelike companions for a mere $4,000 to $6,000.
If you have seen the movies “Westworld,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “Ex Machina” or any of the other hundreds of movies where flesh-and-blood beings become almost indistinguishable from their nuts-and-bolts counterparts, you see that the term “science fiction” is getting a bit cloudy.
It doesn’t take X-ray vision to see the possibilities that may lead to Hawking’s prediction of little need for food on earth and more need for electricity.
We must admit, when Siri asks whether or not she can help us, she responds quickly, unlike many warm-blooded companions who have their heads in their devices.
Mark Cuban, owner of NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, said that the world’s first trillionaires are going to be people who master artificial intelligence and all the applications we haven’t even considered.
So, the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs of AI will be wealthier than the rest of the people on the planet. That’s a lofty goal for mere mortals.
While some can’t wait to jump into the fray, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warn of dangers. Though there are an infinite number of positive applications that could improve mankind, it could also render humans obsolete.
Keeping humans relevant may be a challenge in spite of our opposable thumbs and ability to open doors. We will need to grasp more than doorknobs and small objects to remain on the top of the food chain.