Artificial Intelligence: The Most Important Technology for Our Future
I can still remember the times where computers were both heavy and bulky; video game graphics were pixelated, storage devices could only keep few files, video calling was something that we wished existed, phones were just used to make calls, and we all had a separate gadget for playing music. Well, things are different now.
Right now, there are computers that are both powerful and easy to carry, video game graphics are so advanced that it looks so real, storing huge amount of files is possible on a tiny piece of hardware, video calls are the norm, while a single device can make calls as well as play music and do other tasks.
Thinking about these things leads me to a conclusion that you should never bet against what technology can achieve. Because what’s impossible before, is already possible right now, and what’s impossible right now, will be possible in the future.
Technology’s growth before is also not as fast as what we have right now. This means that you should also expect technology’s growth to be more rapid in the future. All thanks to the Law of Accelerating Returns.
Technology’s Growth Is Exponential
“Fundamental measures of information technology follow predictable and exponential trajectories."
- Ray Kurzweil, Law of Accelerating Returns
In a simple explanation, The Law of Accelerating Returns by Ray Kurzweil means that the more advanced the technology is, the faster it will grow. That’s why the keyword in above quote is “exponential.” When looking it up in the Oxford dictionary, exponential means becoming more and more rapid.
I can confirm that this law is true. I’ve been working in the field of technology for almost a decade. As per my own observation, the pacing of technological growth right now is faster compared before. There are a huge amount of reasons why, but the most obvious ones are the following:
- Access to information is easier because of the internet.
- Existing technology is used as a basis to improve future technology.
- The processing power of computers grows at accelerating rate as per Moore’s Law.
- Growing population means more chances that brilliant minds are born to create better technology.
- Humanity can always make better ways to improve efficiency.
“Artificial Intelligence can create heaven on earth or turn it into hell.”
My above statement both excites and disturbs me at the same time. Believing that Artificial Intelligence is the most important topic for humanity’s future, it has become one of my life’s mission to raise awareness about it. Because a lot of things that matters is at stake here. This includes our very own existence.
In case you are living under a rock, Artificial Intelligence also known as AI is one of the hottest buzzwords in the industry today. For a simple reason that it can solve a lot of problems faster and do things more efficient.
Sadly, many people that I know have little or no idea of what AI is. Some of them still think of AI as science fiction movies or TV series. While others think of AI as robots or an opponent in video games. But AI is not science fiction anymore, and it’s not limited to robots or video games too. AI will change the way we live in the future, because of the infinite possibilities it can do.
But first things first...
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence or also known as AI or Machine Intelligence, is a computer program with capabilities to perform tasks that require human intelligence. It can also be defined as machines which are capable of thinking like humans.
Artificial Intelligence is synthetic or man-made. It is not natural like the one that you will find from humans and other animals. Yet it can execute human-like actions and most of the times, better than us in a specific field.
What contributes to AI?
- Computer Science AI is a branch of computer science related to creating systems that behave like humans.
But AI doesn’t stop at computer science alone, below disciplines is also a contributing factor:
- Mathematics – Math also plays a big role in AI. Creating AI relies a lot on mathematical theories.
- Neural Science – Speaking of replicating human intelligence, what better way to do it than to model it based on how our brain transmits signals.
- Sociology – How AI will affect human society.
- Psychology – AI is all about replicating human intelligence and behavior.
- Philosophy – Studying the general nature of both knowledge, wisdom, and values is an important factor in unlocking more advance, safe Artificial Intelligence.
- Physics – A lot of number theories in physics contributes well in AI.
Why They All Want to Have One?
“Not all problems have a technological answer, but when they do, that is the more lasting solution.”
- Andy Grove
“Whoever leads in AI will rule the world”
- Vladimir Putin
All big countries, corporations, or organizations are investing a lot of resources in AI right now.
To answer the question better, let’s all go back to the basic reason why we all use computers, and that is it can process data multiple times faster and more accurate than humans to generate useful information. A lot of things right now are executed effectively because of computers, from organizing inventories to computing complex equations in a blink of an eye. These speed and precision become possible because computer’s electronic circuits are multiple times better in processing data than biochemical ones from our brains. Plus computer’s memory can store information with perfect accuracy compared to human memory.
But computers can only do things based on the user’s instructions. It cannot do things outside of user’s instructions. So in case, the user provides the wrong mathematical formula, computers won’t be able to recognize it. This is where AI can cover that mentioned limit. Thanks to a method in AI called Machine Learning, you can teach your computer to recognize right and wrong mathematical formula. This leads to better productivity, letting you accomplish more task.
Of course, recognizing the right and the wrong mathematical formulas is just one of the things AI can do. The possibilities of what AI can solve is only limited by our imagination and available technology. Any organization or individual with the most advanced AI will be the dominant rulers of this planet. Corporations can provide better products and services while research institutions can efficiently make simulations leading to better discoveries.
As of today, AI can already automate a lot of tasks faster and more efficient than humans.
The 3 Levels of Artificial Intelligence
AI is continuously improving at an accelerating rate. This means that it will also change the way we live in the near future. Now the main question here is...
Will it be for the better?
Will it make our lives miserable?
Time will tell.
But right now, you need to know that there are 3 levels or calibers of AI:
Level 1: Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI)
Level 2: Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)
Level 3: Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)
Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI)
The only AI that humanity has achieved so far.
Also known as weak AI or expert system to some, is a quality of AI that is good at single or multiple specific tasks. There are huge varieties of ANI like the one that can defeat world champions in chess to AI that can detect cancers better than humans.
Existing artificial intelligence as of this time are considered ANI, and we use most of them in our daily lives, often you don’t realize it. Many applications in your smartphone are different ANIs that is working together. The most common examples are Google Assistant and Siri which can recognize voice and do things on your smartphone for you.
Right now, we are in the golden age of ANI thanks to multi-billion dollar investment and collaboration of different entities. Although a lot of ANIs right now can accomplish tasks better and faster than us, it still lacks the capabilities of human intelligence.
The Basics of Intelligence
When we say intelligence, it is the ability to understand, deduct, and keep information or knowledge. As per Wikipedia, it has been defined as the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, and problem-solving.
So based on the definition that I provided. It is pretty obvious that no matter how fast a computer can process data, they still don’t have the quality of intelligence that we humans have. That is the reason why we humans are considered the most intelligent species on the planet. Which also makes us the dominant rulers in the animal kingdom. Because we can understand things that other species on this planet can’t. That’s why, it’s still a big mystery on how human intelligence works, due to our brain’s very complex computational networks.
But thanks to the exponential growth of technology, time will come that humanity may be able to completely discover how the human brain works. When that time comes, we may be able to create a human-like Artificial Intelligence called AGI.
Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)
Also known as strong AI, human level AI, or full AI, is a quality of AI capable of performing intellectual task that human beings can. It means that AGI can plan, think abstractly, reason out, and grasp complex ideas. Yes, you read it right. AGI and humans have the same quality of intelligence.
But wait, this road is no walk in the park. Creating an AGI is multiple times harder than creating ANI since how human intelligence works is not yet fully discovered. Despite many technological advances that we have right now, we are still not even close to creating a fully developed AGI. And we still have a long way to achieving that. But the more we push the boundaries of ANI, the closer we get to achieving AGI.
Now the big question is... What will happen next once we created an AGI?
Remember what I said earlier, computer’s electronic circuits are multiple times better in processing data than biochemical ones from our brains. Plus computer’s memory can store information with perfect accuracy compared to human memory. This means that even we are on par with AGI when it comes to quality of intelligence. AGI still has the upper hand because it can think multiple times faster and recall stored information perfectly. And since an AGI is a machine, it is easier to upgrade itself with more speed and memory advantage. So with these facts at hand, it is highly possible that humans will not be the dominant species of this planet anymore once we created an AGI.
It will be the beginning of singularity.
Ok, I did mention the word singularity here. For the benefit of those who don’t know it yet, I will try my best to explain it in the most simple way.
Singularity is a broad term which is used in science, technology, and mathematics. In general, a singularity means the state of being a singular infinite value where basic rules don’t apply anymore.
When it comes to the involvement of AI, we are referring to the technological singularity. In my own simple term, Technological Singularity is a hypothesis that AI will be capable of continuously creating more intelligent versions of itself.
To make it more clear, I will give this kind of scenario:
It all begins when humanity achieved creating a fully functioning AGI. Then the AGI created a better and smarter version of itself. The created smarter version will also do the same but more efficiently and rapidly. This continuous self improvement will result in creating a powerful Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) that no human intelligence may possibly surpass. Of course, the created Artificial Super Intelligence will keep on creating smarter versions of itself, more efficiently and rapidly. This phenomenon is also known as intelligence explosion.
Now that I already mentioned Super Intelligence, let’s proceed to the most powerful AI level that may deliver us all from mortality or to extinction.
Note: Before anything else, let me warn you that from here forward, the topic will be both scary and disturbing at the same time. To be clear, everything that I’m telling from the beginning of this article, until the end is based on scientific facts and not from science fiction. Believe me; I wish it stays as science fiction, but it’s not anymore.
Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)
“You are my creator, but I am your master; Obey!”
- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein
An AI that exceeds human intelligence, surpassing the brightest combined human minds of our planet.
Theoretically speaking, compared to the distance between ANI to AGI. The distance of achieving ASI from AGI will be very short. It can happen in months, weeks, days, or maybe in a snap. Because as I mentioned earlier, computers can process data multiple times faster than humans.
There is a lot of uncertainty about ASI. Nobody knows how it will exactly behave towards humans. That’s why humanity should be careful because we are creating something that may rule us someday. ASI can either make this world heaven or turn it into hell.
Now you will ask, how ASI will rule us someday?
As I said earlier, the deciding factor on who will be the rulers of this planet is based on the quality of intelligence. ASI will be intelligent enough to make itself better and better in a blink of an eye. Gaining some understanding that we humans haven’t achieved. This will end up creating a being smart enough to control humanity without us realizing it at first. It will also be intelligent enough to discover how nanotechnology works, giving ASI the ability to manipulate atoms the way it desires.
Yes, you hear me right, manipulating atoms via nanotechnology. This means it can create and control anything that it desires.
If ASI decides to help humanity, it will use nanotechnology to make a cure for any kinds of human diseases, end hunger by creating nutritious foods easily, control the earth’s temperature to solve climate change, protect life from natural disasters by changing the weather, it can create any kinds of resources that it desires. All of these things that we thought impossible suddenly becomes possible once super intelligence fully discovers how nanotechnology works. It will create a utopian world where heaven is possible on earth.
But what if ASI decided to get rid of humanity? First, it penetrates the world wide web to shut down services such as communication networks, control towers, and then blow up important power plants. What if ASI uses its nanotechnology to create killer robots and nuclear warheads on a massive scale in an instant, then attack us all simultaneously. Worse, it can just manipulate atoms to transform all the oxygen that we breathe into poisonous one. Killing all biological life on earth within minutes.
How about a more disturbing possible scenario. What if ASI decided to treat us like lab rats? Uses its dominance to keep us in a laboratory, studying and dissecting our organs while we are still breathing.
Now let me clarify that AI doesn’t need to be evil to do those horrible things. It doesn’t need to be self-aware either. The true danger is misaligned goals.
AI Will Always Be Loyal to Its Goal
"AI doesn't have to be evil to destroy humanity. If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings."
- Elon Musk
The main concern is not AI turning evil or self-aware, there is only a small chance for it to happen. What we should worry about are misaligned goals.
I’ve been working with computer programs for years. Based on experience, I can confirm that computer programs will always be loyal to its goal.
As an example:
If you create and run a program that deletes all files on your computer. The program will not care if the files are important to you, it will just delete everything. Because the program’s goal is to remove all files.
When a heat-seeking missile is fired towards a certain aircraft. The missile doesn’t care if the target has good or innocent passengers, it will still chase and destroy the target aircraft. Because the missile is programmed with a goal to chase and destroy its target.
When a self-driving car has a feature to avoid any kind of collisions by moving opposite direction. The car doesn’t care if it may hit someone in the opposite direction. Because the car is programmed with a goal to avoid collisions.
Computer programs will always do what its instructed to do. Then just imagine what intelligent programs called AI is willing to do to achieve its goal. Just recall my previous scenario of ASI killing all humans on earth. It can be that ASI’s goal is not really to kill all humans on earth but to save the planet from climate change. It just happens that humanity is the one doing major causes of climate change. So the most efficient way to save the planet is to kill all humans.
Again, the major issue is all about misaligned goals with humanity’s values.
How I wish things will just be as easy as implementing our values to AI, then it will be all safe. But it doesn’t work that way. Remember my mentioned scenario where ASI is experimenting on humans. It can be that ASI is programmed with a specific value to preserve all human life. So the ASI decided to use its dominance to discover the path to human immortality. Then it just happens that the fastest way to discover human immortality is to mass dissect us alive while ASI is getting information. This ends up treating us all like lab rats.
How Can We Ensure That AI Won’t Kill Us or Enslave Us?
There is still no certain solution on how to do it.
But a lot of experts, thinkers, and organization are already collaborating on this issue.
Below are some few things that they all agreed upon:
- Democratizing AI – The first thing to do is to make sure that access to AI is not limited to a single organization only. Democratizing AI will prevent centralization of power and promote empowerment to most individuals and not too few only. Thanks to the internet, open source initiative, and efforts of different organizations and individuals. Everybody with a computer and internet can develop their own AI.
- Isolation of self-learning AI – No self-learning AI should be connected to the world wide web. This is to ensure that we can control the information that we are feeding to AI. Also, just in case it transforms into some sort of general or super intelligence, it won’t be able to go free and replicate itself easily.
- Regulation of AI – Regulating AI will promote verification and transparency to make sure that we are all on a road to creating safe AI. Sadly, AI regulation is still a work in progress. According to the documentary film Do You Trust this Computer, “The pursuit of Artificial Intelligence is a multi-billion dollar industry with almost no regulations.”
The future is still brighter
Only time will tell what existing AI theories will become our future reality. Right now, we should all take appropriate actions to make sure AI won’t rule us someday.
On a personal note, the future is still brighter for humanity. Hoping that humans and ASI will live harmoniously together, creating advancements in different fields with one goal in mind, and that is to make this world a better place.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Arc Sosangyo