What would you think if I told you that artificially intelligent robots are being developed to kill other human beings? Could these machines end all human existence?1 The purpose of this essay is to argue that artificial intelligence poses a definite threat towards the human race, and that development of such technology should be regulated and moderated. This will be achieved by, firstly, exploring the dangers of the use of AI on the battlefield; secondly, that artificial intelligence could be dangerous unless carefully developed; and thirdly, showing how they will take jobs away from humans. For clarity, I will define artificial intelligence as the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence. It is mankind’s latest innovation. Over the past decade these advanced machines have been creeping into our lives, from SIRI to driverless cars. Although these examples of AI appear beneficial, are we on the verge of developing something that could endanger our own existence?
In conflicts such as the Afghanistan and the Iraq war, artificial intelligence has been used on the battlefield, in the form of quadcopters- unmanned helicopters with four rotors- used to kill many defenceless, innocent civilians. Since these horrifying weapons have risen to existence, scientists, engineers and businessmen have banded together to share their concerns about the development of this technology. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have all made statements on their fear of these machines, with Hawking going as far as to say, “AI could end the spell of the human race,” in an interview with BBC News.2 Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors has also stated, “AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3,” on his public Twitter account.3 Due to their worries about these artificial weapons, Hawking and Musk, along with one hundred and sixteen other specialists have all signed an open letter proposing a ban on the development of autonomous weapons. From these statements, it is clear that AI is not something that is always used for good and it is no exaggeration that machines are a threat to us.
In most cases, machines are programmed to do something beneficial, and complete a task as efficiently as possible. However, machines could find a destructive method of achieving their goals. According to an article by a website called Future of Life, “this can happen whenever we fail to fully align the AI’s goals with ours, which is strikingly difficult. For example, if you ask an obedient intelligent car to take you to an airport as fast as possible, it might get you there chased by helicopters and covered in vomit, not what you literally asked for.” In short, if an AI is programmed with a task, it will do that task no matter the consequence, which is an additional reason why AI should be developed with severe caution.
Moreover, some argue that the power of AI is only as powerful as its creators’ intentions. According to James Barrat, author and documentary filmmaker, development of such technology is described as ‘dual use’: a term used to describe something that is capable of both great good and great harm. Barrat has referenced this term in his book- Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era- and has compared it to nuclear fission. Barrat states, “nuclear fission, the science behind power plant reactors and nuclear bombs,” is an example of dual use as a power plant generates power, yet nuclear bombs kill thousands. He also discusses that during the
1930s and 40s, it was believed that infinite energy could be achieved by splitting the atom which sounds positive. Yet, nuclear fission was actually used for mass destruction in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to obliterate an entire city. As AI can also be used for good, for example, SIRI, answering our commands, or can be used for bad, to murder soldiers in war.
Another way in which AI could be deadly to our race is through stealing our jobs. Unemployment means no pay, and a struggle to keep the economy running. This means that there could be less money in our pockets to keep families healthy and the next generation of adults. In a forum set up by Quora, a student named Yegor Tkachenko, who has received a Master’s Degree in Operations Research from Stanford University commented, “AI can automate a lot of mundane jobs. This can put a lot of people out of work. While human society is exceptionally good at coming up with new jobs and things to do, it is far from clear that the job creation process will out-speed the job destruction process.” AI is capable of many things now, it can do basic jobs, although once robots become more intelligent and learn how to do even more jobs, and there will no longer be a need for humans to do the task at a lower standard. In a Fortune article by Aric Jenkins, she writes about how “robots could steal 40% of U.S. jobs by 2030.” This conveys how close we really are to automated jobs, and the possibility of worldwide unemployment.
Furthermore, software developers around the world have been trying to create the most intelligent functioning AI. In 2011, the multinational technology company IBM’s question-answer computer system ‘Watson’ took part in the American game show Jeopardy, and wowed the tech industry. ‘Watson’ racked up a grand total of five million dollars on the show, a two million increase from the smartest human competitors winning total. In an episode of Matt Millers podcast This is Interesting, Jason Barrat talks about this milestone the tech industry has achieved in depth. Barrat says, “humans govern the future not because we are the fastest, or the strongest, but because we are the smartest.” From this statement, we are shown that intelligence is the way forward for the evolution of humanity. If we have the most intelligence, we remain in power. He also speaks about the concept of an ‘intelligence explosion’. Barrat states, “when a system becomes both self-aware and self-improving, it would be beneficial for them to know how to know how to write code. When it’s able to write code better than its human handlers, it can improve its own code.” These statements highlight the biggest threat to our existence which is without a doubt, the AI becoming smarter than its creators. Once this happens, the machines become unstoppable, uncontrollable, and can countermand any task given to them. AI is not so advanced yet, this may be in the distant future or even in a few decades, depending on how quickly it develops.
In conclusion, it seems to me that artificial intelligence is definetly the biggest threat to human existence. Ultimately, there may be no way to stop these robots. The only possibility that could slow down the creation of these cyber-geniuses is if all AI developers gather on a regular basis and make an agreement to regulate the AI carefully, although this is an unrealistic goal as not all companies involved may be part of such an agreement. The production of autonomous weapons is being protested against on a worldwide scale, and hopefully, one day, the development of these potential killer robots will come to a halt. Overall, I think that the next age will be one of advanced-system technology rather than humanity if corporate companies such as Google, Apple, and Amazon do not take the dangerous production of ever-more interlligent AI more seriously.