Smarter machines, smarter humans
Raibert with the SpotMini robot.
TECHNOLOGY MEETING PEOPLE’S NEEDS
“As machines get smarter, so do we,” Gruber said.
“Artificial intelligence can enable partnerships where each human on the team is doing what they do best,” he added.
Gruber, a co-creator of Siri and artificial intelligence research at Apple, told of being drawn to the field three decades ago by the potential for technology to meet people’s needs.
“I am happy to see that the idea of an intelligent personal assistant is mainstream,” he said.
Now he has taken his innovative approach to smart machines and is turning the thinking about the technology on its head.
“Instead of asking how smart we can make our machines, let’s ask how smart our machines can make us,” Gruber said.
Already smart technology is taking hold, with popular digital assistants like Apple’s Siri.
South Korean giant Samsung created Bixby to break into a surging market for voice-activated virtual assistants, which includes Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana.
Amazon appears to have impacted the sector the most with its connected speakers using Alexa. The service allows users a wide range of voice interactions for music, news, purchases and connects with smart home devices. REMEMBERING EVERYTHING
Gruber envisions artificial intelligence (AI) getting even more personal, perhaps augmenting human memory.
“Human memory is famously flawed, like where did the 1960s go and can I go there too?” Gruber quipped.
He spoke of a future in which artificial intelligence remembers everyone met during a lifetime and details of everything someone read, heard, said or did.
“From the tiniest clue it could help you retrieve anything you’ve seen or heard before,” he said.
“I believe AI will make personal memory enhancement a reality; it’s inevitable.”
Such memories would need to be private, with people choosing what to keep and be kept absolutely secure, he maintained.
Boston Dynamics robotics company founder Marc Raibert was at the recent 2017 TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada, with a four-legged SpotMini robot nimble enough to frolic amid the conference crowd.
He smiled but would not comment when asked about the potential to imbue the gadget with the kind of artificial intelligence.
Raibert did, however, note that the robots are designed to be compatible with new “user interfaces”.
Current virtual assistants have been described as a step into an era of controlling computers by speaking instead of typing or tapping screens.
“It won’t be too long before we’re using robots to take care of our parents or help our children take care of us,” Raibert said.
THE “GORILLA PROBLEM”
However, not everyone has embraced the idea of a future in which machines are smarter and more capable than humans.
Stuart Russell, a computer sciences professor, referred to the situation as the “gorilla problem” in that when smarter humans came along, it boded ill for evolutionary ancestors.
“This queasy feeling that making something smarter than your own species is not a good idea,” said Russell, co-author of the book Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach.
As an AI researcher, he supported research in the technology.
However, he is all for programming machines with robotic laws of behaviour, in a shrewed spin on work of science fiction author Isaac Asimov.
He gave the example of a robot being told to simply fetch coffee.
A machine not constrained by proper principles might decide that accomplishing the task required it to defend against being shut down and remove all obstacles from its path by whatever means necessary.
Russell counselled robot principles, including altruism, humility, and making a priority of human values.
“You are probably better off with a machine that is like this,” Russell said.
“It is a first step in human compatibility with AI.”
As machines get smarter, so do we.