Artificial intelligence poses questions for the future

New advancements in artificial intelligence are revolutionizing the world — but is this truly good news for the future? Again and again, mankind has developed smarter, more efficient technologies to solve everyday inconveniences we face, but experts warn that the rapid development won’t necessarily help us in the long run.

So far, new artificial intelligence technologies have made rapid progression in the healthcare and gaming industries, and the applications for this technology are only expanding.

For example, Stanford researchers recently announced a new algorithm that analyzes and classifies skin lesions are benign or malignant. Researchers developed this technology suing over 21,000 pictures from the internet and scanned them pixel by pixel to discover similarities.

“We made a very powerful machine learning algorithm that learns from data,” said Andre Esteva, co-lead on the project. “Instead of writing into computer code exactly what to look for, you let the algorithm figure it out … My main eureka moment was when I realized just how ubiquitous smartphones will be. Everyone will have a supercomputer in their pockets with a number of sensors in it, including a camera. What if we could use it to visually screen for skin cancer? Or other ailments?”

This development could mean that many deaths that occur from melanoma – almost 10,000 annually – could be prevented through early diagnosis.

That’s not the only example of ground-breaking new technology in the industry. DeepMind AI, launched by Google, beat a champion human player at Go, an ancient Eastern game of strategy and intuition. The contest marks a huge leap in the ability of machines to make future predictions and strategic moves.

“The DeepMind system, dubbed AlphaGo, matched its artificial wits against Fan Hui, Europe’s reigning Go champion, and the AI system went undefeated in five games…” reported WIRED. Afterward, Google pitted a pair of these networks against each other in different survival scenarios. The outcome shows us that when resources were scarce, the machines began to behave in a more aggressive manner, and when cooperation was better for survival, they worked together.

With such technology quickly becoming more human-like, experts agree that the implications of smarter technology could be potentially devastating for future generations. In an interview with BBC, esteemed scientist Stephen Hawking warned that it might “spell the end of the human race”.

“Ray Kurzweil, a computer engineer and celebrated author points out that on an evolutionary scale, our future will likely involve the brain being systematically synced to the cloud through the use of nanobots the size of red-blood cells. He coins this the ‘neocortical cloud.’ So, if this were the case, what would happen when AI runs rampant and its able to impose its will on humans that have been injected with these nanobots? Would the utilitarian nature of what we’re after ultimately spell out our untimely doom?” Forbes wrote.

Other prominent figures are even taking preventative measures to raise awareness of these potential risks. Elon Musk, creator of Tesla and SpaceX, has granted $10 million to the Future of Life Institute, in order to keep artificial intelligence beneficial. The mission of the non-profit institution is “working to mitigate existential risks facing humanity.”

Musk voiced his opinions about AI, stating, “Most people don’t understand how quickly machine intelligence is advancing. It’s much faster than almost anyone realizes, even within Silicon Valley, and certainly outside Silicon Valley, people really have no idea.”

Humans have already begun losing jobs to more efficient tech, with robots outperforming doctors in surgical procedures and proving more effective at diagnosing lung cancer. Robots could replace around 250,000 public sectors in the next 15 years, saving up to billions of dollars, Independent reports.

But critics like Rodney Brooks, a robotics pioneer, disagree with these extreme conclusions. “Extrapolating from AI today, to suggest that superintelligence is looming is comparable to seeing more efficient internal combustion engines appearing and jumping to the conclusion that warp drives are just around the corner,” Brooks wrote recently. He continues to say that ‘Malevolent AI’ is nothing to worry about for hundreds of years, at least.

For better or for worse, there’s no stopping the rapid progression of artificial intelligence programs. The technology is expanding to courtrooms and hospitals. But unless we keep the development in check, artificial intelligence could prove to be a nightmare in disguise.