A Dangerous Race:
The Implications of AI
There is no shortage of sci-fi films that play with the concept of robots bent on taking over the world. Notably, artificially intelligent enemies make appearances in films like The Terminator, iRobot and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But just how realistic are these depictions of artificial intelligence? How far along are we in achieving this scientific feat? Many companies, small and large, are putting in significant time and effort towards improving the rudimental forms of AI that currently exist.  IPSoft, a New York-based tech firm, has recently gone live with ‘Amelia,’ a system that, according to Quartz, has comprehensive abilities roughly equal to that of a 6-year-old. On IPSoft’s website, an advertisement video for Amelia claims that this AI system is capable of diagnosing problems with your car, planning your business trip, and replacing your credit card, among other things. IPSoft claims that Amelia is already being implemented by several multinationals. With an example like Amelia, the capacity for efficiency and productivity that such AI systems offer is clear. Quartz reports that Narrative Science, another tech company whose AI system is able to synthesize human writing, has received millions of dollars in funding, including an undisclosed investment from the CIA. Narrative Science’s ‘Quill’ AI system is particularly useful for organizing and making sense of large amounts of data – powers that have big implications: Forbes uses it to write some short pieces, and the CIA would be able to use it for internal reports. Technologies like Quill and Amelia require human input, and are not anywhere near the sophistication of the kinds of systems that appear in science-fiction films. Currently, it seems that the greatest threat these technologies pose is making certain jobs obsolete. Martin Ford, a software entrepreneur, claims in his book The Lights in the Tunnel, that AI has the potential to replace as many as 50 million professional jobs in the near future. AI systems have the ability to be more efficient than the average secretary, law clerk, and many other middle-income positions. The implementation of such systems therefore has the power to help production significantly, but not without great cost. What about the future of AI? One example of what AI could offer in the near future comes from San Francisco based company, Vicarious. Vicarious is currently developing an AI system that interprets photographs, video and other visual data according to algorithms based on computational principles of the brain. In other words, this is an AI that is marketed as being able to think and learn like a human being. The Vicarious AI is capable of reliably beating CAPTCHAs (Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Humans and Computers Apart), which many are familiar with as the distorted words on certain webpages that ask the inputter to prove that he/she is human. The potential of Vicarious AI and the systems currently being developed by other companies is impressive. Stephen Hawking recently told BBC in an interview that he believes AI poses the greatest threat to humanity. Despite this sentiment, which Professor Hawking has not been alone in expressing, it is clear that many people are eager to see where AI will go next (Vicarious, for example, has received investments from notable names like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Ashton Kutcher). Artificial Intelligence is a form of playing with fire. Though dangerous in nature (with the potential to replace human jobs), it can be a vital tool when controlled. But no matter how effectively it is used, it's an industry in which there's always a risk things may go haywire.

  • Richard

    I agree. A wise businessman in the Caribbean named Sir Kyffin Simpson always said that the key to success is progression and humility, and clearly he’s done very well for himself as a self made man!

  • John Andrews

    The Airgain IPO launches this week, and they’re a one-brand company.

    Some investors don’t think it’s a good stock though:

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/3997291-risky-signals-antenna-maker-airgain-launches-ipo

  • Cincinnati World Cinema

    Well said, Joe, and worth rereading on a regular basis! Another advantage of small-to-midsize city living is pace and competition. Living in NYC, LA and SF entailed a hectic pace, hallmarked by capital S striving, as one realized there were a ton of others doing what I do. Spending so much time in one’s car in SoCal meant much less time for quality pursuits and pleasures. A smaller pond with relaxed pace allows one to savor life and special moments.


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