The Future of Artificial Intelligence

We’ve all pondered the future — a utopia filled with autonomy and convenience at our finger tips — with impunity. Many contemporary pessimists believe that implementing artificial intelligence, which, in this case, may self-replicate itself into “artificial super-intelligence” might just leave humanity vulnerable. Such qualms present themselves in irrational, yet understandable ways. For example, eminent thinkers Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk believe, aside from climate change, that the future of AI is grim because robots may end up reconfiguring themselves at an ever-increasing rate; far superior to what any human mind could process in a short period of time. Much akin to the movies I Robot and 2001: A Space odyssey, these thoughts have been infused into our minds and now rattle our brains. Could AI really pose such a dire threat to humanity or are we being unrealistic about it?

As sentient beings who are constrained by emotion, it’s hard to fathom how an autonomous system may be able to supersede us, consciously. I mean, it took evolution millions of years to construct this faulty anatomy we are endowed with; and unfortunately, we are fraught with biological problems throughout life. Thus, building a super-computer machine who doesn’t have to be bounded by withering cells and a fickle brain could easily out-think and out-perform us in no time.

We already have cars that drive themselves and IBM’s Watson that can compile millions of pages of information and piece together a normal answer through hints and clues as it once did against Jeopardy’s most brilliant contestants. That said, super-AI is essentially right around the corner.

The effect of AI on the economy will be substantial. Many menial jobs may be supplanted by robots who will do the job more efficiently and effectively. This could put a giant chasm in our financial distribution; where the divide between the poor and the rich grows alarmingly more distant. But, economists and mathematicians speculate that these problems can be solved by adjusting taxes and being monetarily cautious. The good thing about technology and humanity is that we find a way to coexist without stepping on each other’s toes. We’ve feared many things during our progress as humans, but we always seem to push the envelope without tearing the paper.

Consciousness is a sticky subject because it is highly subjective and brain-based. So, if in time these robots do experience life as we do, they will be highly susceptible to rotten emotions such as envy, hatred, deceit, and jealousy. When these emotions go unnoticed in AI, we could be in for a world of trouble. But who says we have to let these robots get to the same level as us, sentimentally? We could easily put boundaries on their expansiveness and override such self-multiplying type of advancement. Even if they somehow do figure out a way to become nearly all-powerful that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll become villainous or malicious. Since humans think like humans, we get a false view that distorts our reality by thinking every organism has to be exactly like us. That’s astoundingly untrue, we are what we are because we are made by building blocks that allow us to be what we are. Robots don’t have to operate on the same bandwidth as us.

Ultimately, I think AI will facilitate humanity in the work area and thus catapult our technology to even greater heights. I’m an optimist: scientists and engineers are wise enough to modify and predict any shortcomings in AI before they transpire. AI won’t destroy us because we won’t let them. There will be ample codes and algorithmic functions that could destruct such a hostile group of robots if need be. Super-AI I’m a bit more weary about because depending on the technological ramifications, this typer of hyper-robot could completely predict how we would look to control it which could open a can of worms. But for now, and in the near future, be jubilant and embrace artificial intelligence! We’ll be completely safe from any unfeeling machines that want to impose their will on the human civilization.

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Are Humans Getting Dumber or Smarter?

           Here’s the caveat: I am leaning toward the former. You would presumably think that since technology is diffused more so than it was 100 years ago that we’d be tremendously smarter, but it seems as if our intelligence is getting impeded by our ignorance. Albeit, it’s generally difficult to put intelligence under one heading; it’s an ambiguous term that can be quantified in many different ways—the most popular being the IQ test. However, studies indicate that our IQs have been steadily climbing in the past century, but Smartphones seemingly buttress any type of uncertainty we’re fraught with, whereas 200 years ago these things needed to be committed to memory. Cellphones take away from the hands-on working memory we’ve been burdened with for the past 100,000 years, which puts an abridged life span on things we assimilate. So, we may be getting both dumber and smarter, but we are struggling to adhere to basic principles and facts that befall on our civilization, unremittingly. Another thing, which I will primarily focus on is willful ignorance; which isn’t going to provide our planet with prosperity; instead, it takes the route to dystopia where people are constantly muddling misinformation and bickering over pseudosciences. My gripes, that continue to get my blood to boil, are the persisting battle to accept homosexuals and the never-ending rejection of science. I stick with my theory: the smart people, or those who want to be smart, are becoming more intelligent, but unfortunately, the obtuse people remain stagnant and obstinate, leading to less overall intelligence.

          I think intelligence not only corresponds with a comprehension capacity, but also to the cognizance of what’s happening to oneself and the environment. Smart people are aware of malnutrition and thus look toward healthy foods to keep themselves around longer than usual. The rise in technological advancements has led the way to pure laziness, which obviously engenders obesity. Sapient beings should realize this and attack it at its roots, but we don’t—willful ignorance. According to the Health Organization, from 2004 to 2010, obesity increased from 11% in American adults. It’s not hard to adumbrate that this is a bad omen for years to come since many food distributors are selling deleterious processed foods to get more gain on their product.

          Climate change is a dire problem that is nearly irreversible at this point because of the narrow-mindedness coming from the naysayers and deniers. But, the evidence for global warming is incontrovertible: a study revealed 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is anthropogenic (man-made). Now, I’m not sure if the average lay person is more astute than any esteemed scientist (embrace the pun), but if I were a betting man, I’d listen to the scientists who painstakingly and feverishly work at understanding what’s happening to our climate. And, for those unsure about global warming, here’s a short summation: Global warming is the excessive release of greenhouse gases (Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.) into our atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation that traps the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, giving rise to the earth’s average temperature. Furthermore, this opens a Pandora’s box: sea levels rise, storms’ intensity increases, droughts become longer, extinction plagues animals, a scarcity of food and water occurs, and there is a proliferation of fatal diseases.  In order to remedy this bleak situation, we must look toward alternative energy sources, but we remain unchanged and are elongating the resolution process. This, my friends, is willful ignorance: you can try to run on a broken foot, but there comes a time when one must be prudent and get healthy before making things worse.

          In the year 2014, the ubiquity of hatred and ostracism of homosexuals truly baffles me. It’s obvious that genes have something to do with being gay; I mean, if you’re heterosexual, try to choose to be suddenly gay–you can’t. That’s beside the point, though. We’re splitting hairs over the same sort of nonsense that divided us as a nation only a mere 60 years ago, and that’s racism. Now it’s just a different minority. A homophobic person really is masquerading something more sinister deep down. Whether it’s because they aren’t cut from the same cloth as you (narcissism) or because your religion tells you it’s bad (dogma), it’s still morally reprehensible to dislike someone because they’re different than you. It’s not like we all sat in front of a big screen and got to create ourselves, atom by atom; we had no choice in any of our physical make up. Therefore, there should be no problem with homosexuals on any level. Given the multifarious diversity of life on planet Earth, it would be perverse of you not to understand that differences exist.

          The Pew Research Center recently released a study that indicated one-third of Americans do not believe in evolution. This finding is exasperating to say the least. The planet screams evolution in thousands of different ways, from the growth of disease to the rise and fall of dinosaurs; it’s clear that the planet is billions of years old. It is old enough to have tiny nuances in each new generation that brought us from single celled organisms and common ancestors millions of years ago. A total of 98.5% of scientists treat biological evolution as a fact—as the process of continual development from successive generations. Once again, willful ignorance is apparent. The numbers don’t lie, and evolution has provided us with a myriad of apposite medicines because diseases themselves evolve.  Most people assert that evolution is just a theory, and indeed it is. But, it is a scientific theory, which, in the hierarchy of credibility, stands higher than a law. Theories come with a preponderance of empirical evidence that is tested thoroughly throughout years of intricate studies. It has yet to be disproven, and it fits perfectly with what we know about the planet.

          The willful ignorance that I touched on is an epidemic that is preventing our consciousness from expanding. All of the information I presented is a couple clicks away; it just takes a spark of curiosity and common sense to discern the malarkey from the truth. I’m no luddite, but I know that the tsunami of information that gets blasted into our brains daily can easily render us susceptible to gullibility and unsureness about what’s true and what isn’t. So, back to my main point: are we getting dumber or smarter? The answer is both; scientists and pundits of enlightened subjects seem to be thriving exponentially while laymen remain static, constantly looking to confirm their bias and turning a blind eye to reality. I try to question everything but am extremely receptive when learning new things. The truth may be discomfiting and somewhat incomprehensible, but for us to become smarter, we first have to accept what’s patently staring right at us. Einstein once said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Let’s not be the ones who fall victim to those sentiments.

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Photo courtesy of Lee Verdecchia