The fear of Singularity

The fear of Singularity
Artificial intelligence continues to be hailed for the possibilities it presents in nearly every facet of human life. However, some in Silicon Valley have begun fearing Singularity..

Artificial intelligence continues to be hailed for the possibilities it presents in nearly every facet of human life.

However, some in Silicon Valley have begun fearing Singularity – the moment when computer intelligence surpasses that of human beings.

Background

Artificial intelligence is computer systems performing tasks that are otherwise only  performed through human intelligence. This includes, but is not limited to visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Presently, most of the technology focused on Artificial Intelligence is properly known as narrow AI or weak AI. Self-driving cars and Siri are some of the platforms that employ AI (narrow AI). Researchers and experts now believe that humanity is now on the path to creating General Artificial Intelligence (AGI). According to scientists, AGI would be able to outperform humans in nearly every single cognitive task.

The opportunities presented by AI have been long celebrated by companies in the Silicon Valley. Top companies like Facebook and Google have employed AI in their products. Alphabet’s autonomous car unit, Waymo has already hit the roads and is charting passengers during test drives.

However, not all entrepreneurs are optimistic about the promise of AI. In fact, Elon Musk, the founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX, has often spoken about the potent risks inherent in AI. In 2017 he stated that the next World War would not be caused by North Korea but by Artificial Intelligence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that any nation that is able to effectively crack AI technology, will become the ‘ruler of the world.’ He also said, “Artificial Intelligence is the future not only of Russia but of all of mankind. There are huge opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to foresee today… Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Putin added that if Russia becomes the leader in the development of Artificial Intelligence, “we will share our technology with the rest of the world, like we are doing now with atomic and nuclear technology.”

Analysis

Top tech companies have come together to release a list of principles to ensure AI is used responsibly. The DC based group called the Information Technology Industry Council represents organizations like IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apply. The companies are pledging to adhere by a set of ethical principles when it comes to developing intelligence systems.

Among the principles that have been released, these companies have stated that they will be taking “steps to avoid the reasonably predictable misuse of this technology by committing to ethics by design.” The companies have also vowed to mitigate bias, inequity and other potential harms in automated decision-making systems. Additionally, the group promises to responsibly use data and test for potentially harmful bias in the deployment of AI systems.

Even within Silicon Valley, there are some fringe activists who believe that AI would become the next religion or “deity”. Anthony Levandowski, has founded the Way of the Future, a new religion, based on a “godly” AI. Additionally, there are technologists who believe that a phenomenon calledSingularity will occur in the not so distant future - the moment when, they say, computer intelligence will surpass human intelligence.

Recently, Google’s DeepMind created a program that has for the first time taught itself from scratch how to defeat human players in the complex Chinese game of Go. In January, researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University unveiled an algorithm capable of beating the best human poker players. These have fuelled further fears that Singularity might actually occur sooner than feared.

Assessment

Our assessment is that Singularity poses a security threat to human life. It is prudent for technology companies to design and develop artificial intelligence in a manner that is ethically moral. Can this technology really replace human value? Only time can tell.  

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