Picture this, it’s the year 2029 and the world is overrun by robots. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Surely there’s no way a robot can outsmart the most complex system in the world – the human brain? A world dominated by robots is not, however, that farfetched according to Google’s director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil. Kurzweil is known for his quest to live forever (or at least long enough so that he can rely on science and technology to keep him alive) by injecting vitamin supplements and taking a 150 pills a day.
Kurzweil is the godfather of non-linear thinking who has predicted, mostly correctly, some of the most outrageous events in human history. In 1990 he predicted that by 1998 a computer would be able to beat a chess grand master at his own game. Fast forward seven years and IBM’s Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Kurzweil also predicted that the World Wide Web would explode into human consciousness when it was only being used by a few well educated academics.
Where do robots come into this you ask? Kurzweil is leading a research arm at Google where they are trying to develop artificial intelligence (AI) to the point where it surpasses human consciousness.
A dangerous notion, according to Elon Musk, fellow forward thinker, but somewhat of an AI sceptic. While he is not against it, he just suggests that we need to be smart in the way we take this venture forward.
In a recent interview he suggested that we are “summoning the demon” that we can’t dream of conquering, for when they (the AI) outsmart us there is no way of reversing what we have done.
Steve Omohundro, a computer scientist, wrote a paper on the dangers of AI. He echoed Musk’s worries, suggesting that once AI gains sentience it will do everything in its power to ‘stay alive’, including destroying its inventor if threatened.
In the end, it’s difficult to argue against Musk or Omohundro, but it’s also impossible to suggest that we shouldn’t pursue the development of AI; after all, many great developments and achievements start with a far-out idea. We can argue all we want though, but considering the rate at which technology is developing and that a lot of ideas that started out as science fiction have become science fact, AI becoming a reality is a definite possibility.