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Feb 12

AI pluses versus minuses

We already know Elon Musk, South African born multi-billionaire, predicts that AI (Artificial Intelligence) will be more dangerous than North Korea

And legendary physicist Professor Steven Hawking was also wary: “AI has the potential to be the worst event in the history of our civilisation”

On the other hand, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates pooh-poohs their pessimism and says: “AI will mean longer vacations”

Machine learning will make humans more productive and therefore able to accomplish the same amount of work in less time

“That’s a good thing”

“The purpose of humanity is not just to sit behind a counter and sell things – more free time is not a terrible thing”

AI is simply better software – surveillance, security and transcription are several areas where machine learning will make things faster and cheaper, whether in an operating room, jail, factory or courthouse – you will be able to transcribe everything that is being said, and see things if they are safety violations, even on a construction site

With AI, you can even speak to a machine as if it were a person and tell it exactly what you’re looking for – it knows what you mean, allows plenty of room for error, then produces the document – it thus saves a lot of time and effort, and increases productivity as employees are left with more time to get on with their work proper

Overall, AI will free up some labour which can be re-trained/ re-directed to help care for the elderly, reduce class sizes or help kids with special needs – of course, such labour must also be offered an adequate income for them and their families to ensure they’re not attracted to joining the dole queue

But Niall Ferguson of the Hoover Institution, Stanford, raises another cautionary note

He claims in a Sunday Times article: “The more machines learn, the less we shall grasp” – as machine learning replaces human judgement, we shall find ourselves as baffled by events as our pre-modern forefathers were – we shall no more understand the workings of the machines than they understood the vagaries of nature, citing modern flash financial crashes versus past flash floods

And former Google chairman Eric Schmidt says: “Even the best Silicon Valley software engineers no longer fully understand how their own algorithms work”

Ferguson concludes by saying:

  • Machines can already ‘teach themselves’ and this deep learning goes deeper than our paltry human minds can fathom

  • Mankind thus stands on the threshold of a new era – a new mental era – where the sum of human happiness will be increased by deep learning

  • The problem is the sum of human understanding may also end up being reduced

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