AI’s future is not so scary
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) will transform just about everything, but technologists should stop fretting that it’s going to destroy the world like Skynet.
The odds that AI will enslave or eliminate humankind within the next decade or so are thankfully slim. At the same time, however, AI looks certain to upend huge aspects of everyday life, from employment and education to transportation and entertainment. So concludes a major report from Stanford University, co-authored by more than 20 leaders in the fields of AI, computer science, and robotics. The analysis is significant because public alarm over the impact of AI threatens to shape public policy and corporate decisions.
The report predicts that automated trucks, flying vehicles, and personal robots will be commonplace by 2030, but it cautions that remaining technical obstacles will limit them to certain niches. It also warns that the social and ethical implications of advances in AI, such as the potential for unemployment in certain areas and likely erosions of privacy driven by new forms of surveillance, will need to be open to discussion and debate.
The study, part of a project intended to last 100 years, is something of a rebuttal to some of the alarmist pronouncements that have been made about AI. “No machines with self-sustaining long-term goals and intent have been developed, nor are they likely to be developed in the near future,” the report says.
“I really see this as a coming-ofage moment for the field,” says Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, an independent research institute in Seattle, who is a co-author of the report. “The extreme positive hype is wrong, and the fear-mongering is not based on any data.”
The report identifies the most promising areas for future AI research, and Etzioni says key among these is research on ways for humans and AI systems to collaborate effectively. Stanford’s one hundred year study on artificial intelligence will report findings every five years. The first report focuses on areas in which AI will have a significant impact, including transportation, health care, education, and employment.