Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Are Robots Our Friends?

February 19th, 2015 / in policy, research horizons, Research News, resources / by Helen Wright

technology background  with robot  android womenThere has been a tremendous amount of press on the astonishing advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and the negative impacts that it could have on our society. Former Computing Community Consortium (CCC) council member, Eric Horvitz recently published a piece about the Benefits and Risks of Artificial Intelligence. Others have commented that AI could take our jobs and even potentially kill us.

Elon Musk, Tesla chief executive, called artificial intelligence our biggest existential threat at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium in October.

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence.

Then Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates got the Internet all fired up when he answered questions in a Reddit “AskMeAnything” thread.

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.

But have we stopped to think… are they really all that bad?

David W. Buchanan, an IBM Researcher, published an opinion piece in The Washington Post. It makes you think… huh, maybe robots aren’t so bad after all?

We have learned from science fiction movies and books that when the AI becomes conscious, it can decide to kill us all. However, as Buchanan argues, consciousness is hard to create because scientists “can’t really agree on a rigorous definition, let alone a research program that would uncover its basic mechanisms.” The qualities of humanity -love, anger, revenge- are a part of our consciousness. So without consciousness to drive an AI, there is no reason to expect that it could get revengeful and commit murder.

Whatever you decide, good or bad, just know you have people on both sides of the argument who have your back even if the robots eventually do not.

Are Robots Our Friends?