The rate of increase in the power of artificial intelligence (AI) is matched by the rate of increase in the number of “experts” in the field. I’ve heard that jokingly said. 5-minutes on Twitter and it’s immediately apparent that off-the-shelf opinions run from – what’s all the fuss about? to Armageddon is just around the corner.
Being a bit of a stoic, I take the view that opinions are fine, but the question is what’s the reality? That doesn’t mean ignoring honest speculation, but that speculation should have some foundation in what’s known to be true. There’s plenty of emotive opinions that are wonderfully imaginative. Problem is that it doesn’t help us take the best steps forward when faced with monumental changes.
Today’s report is of the retirement of Dr Geoffrey Hinton from Google. Now, there’s a body of experience in working with AI. He warns that the technology is heading towards a state where it’s far more “intelligent” than humans. He’s raised the issue of “bad actors” using AI to the detriment of us all. These seem to me valid concerns from an experienced practitioner.
For decades, the prospect of a hive mind has peppered science fiction stories with tales of catastrophe. With good reason given that mind-to-mind interconnection is something that humans haven’t mastered. This is likely to be the highest risk and potential benefit. If machine learning can gain knowledge at phenomenal speeds from a vast diversity of sources, it becomes difficult to challenge. It’s not that AI will exhibit wisdom. It’s that its acquired information will give it the capability to develop, promote and sustain almost any opinion.
Let’s say the “bad actor” is a colourful politician of limited competence with a massive ego and ambition beyond reason. Sitting alongside, AI that can conjure-up brilliant speeches and strategies for beating opponents and that character can become dangerous.
So, to talk about AI as the most important inflection point in generations is not hype. In that respect the rapid progress of AI is like the invention of the explosive dynamite. It changed the world in both positive and negative ways. Around the world countries have explosives laws and require licenses to manufacture, distribute, store, use, and possess explosives or its ingredients.
So far, mention of the regulation of AI makes people in power shudder. Some lawmakers are bigging-up a “light-touch” approach. Others are hunched over a table trying to put together threads of a regulatory regime that will accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.