Stephen Hawking has been warning recently (several times) on the possibility of an uprising by machines. AI as its called meaning artificial intelligence or robots to the more basic of us.
His latest warning is that AI could take jobs from millions of people causing social upheavals in almost every part of the world.
The same was said of course when automation came in on production lines, where farmers drive three tractors or combine harvesters. When 20ft and 40ft containers were introduced, predictions of mass unemployment at docks world wide.
In Mines and factories where new machines that could dig at ten times the rate of a man heralded the end of large scale workforces having to do menial tasks for extended hours and soon became things of the past.
There was of course a reduction of labor, and a significant one at that, but the net gain was those same workers were retrained for something more worthwhile.
To me Stephen Hawking predictions for the workforces are the least of the problems rather than the most.
Google recently claimed that its done its first million miles in a car, although occupied by a human, was driven by Google, and without a single accident.
This year will see the first autonomous cars in California as a test drive for what is to come. This test is due to last a year but as we already know that it will be a success, based on the fact that the only way one of these cars has an accident is if a human runs into one.
They brake sooner, faster, anticipate better, drive in all weathers, never fall asleep at the wheel, and don’t talk on a cell phone. The benefits for the blind, handicapped, even emergency services, and social being are vast, and their uses almost unlimited.
No ..cars on the road and robots in our factories will be more useful than we can imagine. But AI will effect us so much more in other ways.
Currently automation is being given power and some serious power at that. We have recently seen two events that caused social decline on the stock markets, where carefully produced analytic capabilities are given to computers to buy or sell shares automatically.
Because of two false readings on two occasions millions of shares were traded because these systems are geared up to make pennies, and to make assumptions of tomorrows reactions to events today.
Your i Phone probably does a whole lot more than just making a phone cal. It reminds you of birthdays, tells you about like minded people close by, and may even control your bank account automatically.
The military has been reassuring us that nuclear weapons cannot be fired automatically, the fail safe being that codes that can only come from multiple high ranking officials, who have to sequentially and in unison, enter the necessary codes to open those silos.
The fact is that more information, and more power is given to machines for our comfort. Our chair adjusts to our mood, our car brakes automatically, our checkouts are often missing that smile of the checkout girl.
Computers can now (almost) teach themselves. The more ominous issue to me, is that they are being used to design themselves, on the basis of their experience, which given the possibilities of communication, would actually be based on the basis of EVERY computer, with their assumptions being fed to the next computer in a nano second.
Imagine if the life experiences of every human on earth and every circumstance that had ever been in were shared by all humans. Every single wrong move we have ever made in history with a perfect readout of all possible permutations and the only possible right move known to all humans at the same time, as and when it occurs.
This is what we will see from AI…. with updates coming fast and furious every time they get within range of internet access.
All too the good you may say, as you would be saved all the mundane tasks of everyday life. Well maybe not. The natural progression is that you give the computer more and more permissions to perform tasks without you having to be bothered. Just think how many permissions you have given your computer…. to pay bills regularly, down load the latest software and install, and if you think that you are in control, just go on a website controlled by bots.
They will bombard you with adds, offers and porn, and the only thing you did was press enter. but of course your in control… you think.
Now what if computers had full control to do anything…. and if you want take out the opening the silos and firing weapons. What if they had the control to plant seeds, harvest crops, be the food chain supply point. Say they looked after emission controls in vehicles to keep the air clean, to purify the water, run trains on schedule, and fly planes and land automatically, which in all cases they could do much better than humans.
They already run the power grid, where incidentally the have closed down the USA twice in the last ten years.
Now into this equation you add total automation where all humans do is oil the wheels, and feed the cats. Where we are so automated that we have driver less trains (check your airport) planes that have no flight deck and no humans, see drones. Hospitals that have diagnostic machines that are so much more efficient than your doctor, but only with full control.
How long do you think it would take for that same computer to realize that the only thing humans do is consume, they do not actually produce. How long would it be before AI decides the only reasonable option based on all information coming in from all those AI”s and that is that humans are expendable.
Get rid of them and natural resources like gold and silicone’s can be produced by machines easily and efficiently. Given that they get what they need to survive, what do they need wasteful and counter productive humans for that do nothing but use the earth and replace nothing at all.
A film made about twenty years ago called War Games highlighted where a young smart kid inadvertently started playing a war game of opposing nations on the pentagons computer.
The problem with Joshua (the computer) was that it always completed its task, and that it had no concept of what a game was. Everything was a command based on I/O system. You get to a query and you have only two options ever. one or the other. To make it more sophisticated you simply give it more I/O’s ultimately defining things on a smaller and smaller scale till a conclusion is reached.
So as it is fully in control, it plays a game and fires its missiles not understanding that one was in a twilight world of computers and the other the reality of humans. The film being about the need for humans to teach Joshua before he actually kills the world.
The way he was taught,and then saving the world, was being shown how to play itself at tic tac toe. As we know there is no end to this game, and no winners, but Joshua had no concept of the futility of this game until it is forced to play itself.
The logical outcome is that there can never be a winner in this game, just as by launching a missile attack with its strike and counter strike, there can never be a winner.
Much the same could be said for a computers logic when considering the value of humans on the planet today…. The best thing to do with any planet is cut its most useless resource which in turn would ensure the planets survival.
Unfortunately that resource is us!…. and the planet needs us a whole lot less than we need it!
And all it will take is pressing enter on a machine once, that will end our autonomy once and for all, and, in all likely hood end the human race…..