The Bright Side of AI: How Human-Assisted Robot Intelligence Could Make Life Better
From automated cars to robot butlers, it’s easy to imagine the ways increasingly advanced AI could make our lives easier. But on the flipside, science-fiction stories have been exploring the ways AI could be bad news for civilisation for decades, from Terminator to I.Robot. So what’s the verdict?
Recently, some of the biggest names in technology have been speaking out about their concerns over the future of AI. Most recently, Elon Musk made headlines when he tweeted that WWIII could be initiated by AI, “if it decides that a preemptive strike is [the] most probable path to victory.” Scary stuff.
Aside from Musk it seems everyone has a view on the potential benefits and risks of AI, with none other than Vladimir Putin telling students that “[AI comes with] threats that are difficult to predict.”
But enough fear-mongering! Although it would be naive to ignore some of the potential problems we might face with AI, we should also look towards the potential benefits and how they might aid us in ways we might not expect.
Rather than robots taking over the world, replacing us or just becoming our slaves, human-assisted robot intelligence could make a higher quality of life achievable for those who are less fortunate. It doesn’t sound as sensational as the fears, which is why some of the best new ideas, projects and dreams don’t get enough airtime, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.
Using AI to turn us superhuman
One of our favourite examples comes from the co-creator of Siri, Tom Gruber. He gave a TED talk early this year about his ambitions to make “humanistic AI”. But his goal isn’t to create robotic clones for war or for service instead, he wants to create robotic add-ons and AI programmes that augment and collaborate with us, as opposed to competing with us and replacing us. The main way he envisions this collaboration is through achieving superhuman performance and increasing creativity and cognitive function. Essentially, enhancing what we’ve already got — whether that be speed or fact recall. Gruber proposes that not only will this make us better at our jobs, it could aid interaction and personal relationships too.
Machine learning for those with disabilities
Arguably one of the most interesting ways to apply AI is helping those with disabilities and making their lives easier. For example, researchers have been using language software developed by IBM Watson, the company’s AI supercomputer, to create Content Clarifier. It uses machine learning and language processing to help people with autism or dementia to interact better with language and the world. In practice, this looks like replacing figures of speech and metaphors with plainer language, as well as breaking up lengthy sentences. Simple, but effective, this is the kind of AI that could really change lives.
Changing the world for the better
At the AI For Good Global Summit a few months ago, experts gathered to not just talk about the way robot tech could change our lives on an individual level, but how machine learning could be used to affect the whole human race. From using AI to assess why some communities thrive and others fall behind, through to leveraging deep learning to better solve sustainable living problems and even devise solutions for battling poverty, the best minds in AI have been joining together with organisations like the UN to ensure the latest tech isn’t just lining the pockets of big companies — it’s making a difference on an international scale.
Elon Musk isn’t wrong. We need to approach the development and evolution of AI with plenty of planning and a strong degree of caution. There needs to be more research, safeguards in place, and lots of different types of people influencing how AI works in order to ensure the best possible outcomes. But right now, we also shouldn’t be afraid of the human-enhancing possibilities that AI might bring.