EML Blog #2: Will AI Take Over The World?

In the short term, no, I don’t think so. Not in the Terminator way that the popular media has warned about. The reason is that any dangerous equipment these days has Safety mechanisms on it that work to ensure that a program error cannot cause harm to people or other equipment.

This all assumes that control of weapons of mass destruction aren’t given to the machines directly, in which case all bets are off. You could just as easily write a program which randomly decides when to launch nuclear missiles as well. There is a place for AI and direct control of nuclear weapons is not it. For what it’s worth, there are safety mechanisms for preventing humans from launching nuclear missiles as well.

Machine learning algorithms are essentially just self-modifying mathematical models that are imprecise to the point that I don’t believe that they would be allowed to work in these potentially life threatening situations.

For the foreseeable future, AI poses no real threat. Even if the program becomes self-aware, it will do so in a closed environment. The most damage it could do is shut itself off and shut down a factory for a day, or something like that. The industrial processes that intelligence manages would all be setup in such a way that they could not harm anyone, just as they are setup to prevent human beings from hurting themselves or others.

The real danger of AI is in its potential to seize jobs from America’s working class. Though not strong AI in the way that people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk warn about, the recent arguments for a $15 minimum wage and the counterarguments for increased automation of low-skill and manual labor jobs means that many people may be out of a job in the near future. One McDonalds in Phoenix is run nearly entirely on robot labor. Technological advances in this space will inevitably make automated labor less cheaper. A relatively expensive human workers will become obsolete in manual labor jobs. Humans get tired and make mistakes. Humans get sick. This is already happening in spaces like electronics mass manufacturing, where humans simply cannot perform work as precisely as a pick-and-place machine or reflow soldering oven.

Someday computers will be powerful enough to enable an artificial intelligence. Unless that AI is given the reins completely, they will be unable to take over and destroy humanity due to the safety lockouts that prevent humanity from destroying humanity.