Should robotics future make us concerned?

Should robotics future make us concerned?


The developments in Robotics has been a long term concern for many across the globe. A great concern, popularly referred to as Singularity, is a hypothetical event in which a robot, computer or any similar device would be both self-aware of its own making and also intelligent enough to alter or improve it. This would inevitably make it smarter and smarter until it outsmarts us all – or so they say.

Before reaching any conclusion, there yet exists another unanswered and perhaps even more important question: will such machines ever exist?

[Image Source : Dan Krauss]

Siri, the iPhone app, is quite remarkable as many would expect. Its user interface is so remarkable that most people can’t help but wonder if Siri has a mind of its own. Not only can Siri find you a good restaurant or call a friend, it can occasionally crack a joke or two.

Dag Kittlaus and his team were the ones that created Siri and here is what he had to say about Siri’s sense of humor; “Well, we anticipated, originally, that people were gonna ask funny questions,” he said. “And we spent quite a bit of time preparing Siri to be funny and have a little bit of a dry wit.” And surprisingly enough, Siri doesn’t even think. It’s all preprogrammed.

Dag Kittlaus eventually left Apple and went in pursuit of a more ambitious project he calls Viv. Basically, Viv can be thought as Siri 2.0. Dag Kittlaus said with Viv, one could say something like, “Find me a great place to go, take my kids, to the Caribbean in the last week of February.” and Viv would instantaneously search all possible databases to get what you want and even possibly engage in conversation.

One would think that this (Viv) is quite an achievement, or perhaps not. People like MIT’s Max Tegmark think otherwise. He said, “If we succeed in getting true artificial intelligence(AI) that’s smarter than us, it will be the most powerful technology ever. And it’ll either be the best thing ever to happen to humanity, or the worst thing. And it’s up to us, now, to see which way it’s gonna go.”

Even though Tegmark spoke like Singularity might be a 50-50 scenario, his actions spoke otherwise. He set up a group called Future of Life Institute whose aim according to their website is “working to mitigate existential risks facing humanity”.

It’s difficult to argue against Tegmark, particularly after the following statement he made. He said, “The basic concern is very simple: If you can make a machine which can out-compete us humans on all cognitive tasks, then by definition, it’s better than us also at programming AI. So first thing it can do is improve its own software. Now it’s even smarter! Then it can do it again and again and again.”

Although the general impression is that if this recursive self-improvement occurs with artificially intelligent machines, they would eventually turn on humans and a post-apocalyptic world might be all that remains. This was the inspiration behind the popular Hollywood animation 9. Tegmark argued that this was “ridiculous”, he said that Singularity would not be a problem as long as the goals of AI and humans are aligned with each other.

To be or not to be concerned with the future of Robotics and AI? Perhaps only the future can tell us as we wait to see in what directions our ever-ambitious scientists take Artificial Intelligence to.