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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A single failure of a superintelligent AI system could cause an existential risk event.

"In the near future, as artificial intelligence (AI) systems become more capable, we will begin to see more automated and increasingly sophisticated social engineering attacks. The rise of AI-enabled cyberattacks is expected to cause an explosion of network penetrations, personal data thefts, and an epidemic-level spread of intelligent computer viruses. Ironically, our best hope to defend against AI-enabled hacking is by using AI. But this is very likely to lead to an AI arms race, the consequences of which may be very troubling in the long term, especially as big government actors join the cyber wars."

Very simply, it’s machines doing things that are considered to require intelligence when humans do them: understanding natural language, recognising faces in photos, driving a car, or guessing what other books we might like based on what we have previously enjoyed reading.
It’s the difference between a mechanical arm on a factory production line programmed to repeat the same basic task over and over again, and an arm that learns through trial and error how to handle different tasks by itself.
The leading approach to AI right now is machine learning, in which programs are trained to pick out and respond to patterns in large amounts of data, such as identifying a face in an image or choosing a winning move in the board game Go. This technique can be applied to all sorts of problems, such as getting computers to spot patterns in medical images, for example. Google’s artificial intelligence company DeepMind are collaborating with the UK’s National Health Service in a handful of projects, including ones in which their software is being taught to diagnose cancer and eye disease from patient scans. Others are using machine learning to catch early signs of conditions such as heart disease and Alzheimers.

Artificial intelligence is also being used to analyse vast amounts of molecular information looking for potential new drug candidates – a process that would take humans too long to be worth doing. Indeed, machine learning could soon be indispensable to healthcare.
Artificial intelligence can also help us manage highly complex systems such as global shipping networks. For example, the system at the heart of the Port Botany container terminal in Sydney manages the movement of thousands of shipping containers in and out of the port, controlling a fleet of automated, driverless straddle-carriers in a completely human-free zone. Similarly, in the mining industry, optimisation engines are increasingly being used to plan and coordinate the movement of a resource, such as iron ore, from initial transport on huge driverless mine trucks, to the freight trains that take the ore to port.
AIs are at work wherever you look, in industries from finance to transportation, monitoring the share market for suspicious trading activity or assisting with ground and air traffic control. They even help to keep spam out of your inbox. And this is just the beginning for artificial intelligence. As the technology advances, so too does the number of applications.

How dangerous is AI really?
Look at any newsfeed today, and you'll undoubtedly see some mention of AI. Deep machine learning is becoming the norm. Couple that with Moore's Law and the age of quantum computers that's undoubtedly upon us and it's clear that AI is right around the corner. But how dangerous is AI really? When it comes down to it, how can a connected network operating within the confines of laws that govern other organisms' survival actually be stopped?
While the birth of AI is surely a utilitarian quest in that our natural tendencies are to improve upon prior iterations of life through the advancement of technology, and that AI will clearly pave the way for a heightened speed of progress, is it also spelling out the end of all humanity? Is our species' hubris in crafting AI systems ultimately going be to blamed for its downfall when it occurs?
If all of this sounds like a doom-and-gloom scenario, it likely is. What's to stop AI when it's unleashed? Even if AI is confined to a set of rules, true autonomy can be likened to free will, one in which man or machine get to determine what is right or wrong. And what's to stop AI that lands in the hands of bad actors or secretive government regimes hell bent on doing harm to its enemies or the world?

When AI is unleashed, there is nothing that can stop it. No amount of human wrangling can bring in a fully-activated and far-reaching network composed of millions of computers acting with the level of consciousness that's akin to humans. An emotional, reactive machine aware of its own existence could lash out if it were threatened. And if it were truly autonomous, it could improve upon its design, engineer stealthy weapons, infiltrate impenetrable systems, and act in accordance to its own survival.
Throughout the ages, we've seen the survival of the fittest. It's mother nature's tool, her chisel if you well, sharpening and crafting after each failure, honing the necessities, discarding the filaments, all towards the end of increasing the efficiency of the organic machine.
Today, humans are the only species on the planet capable of consciously bending the will of nature and largely impacting the demise of plants, animals, environments, and even other people. But what happens when that changes? When a super-intelligent machine's existence is threatened, how will it actually react? Aside from the spiritual issues that revolve around the "self," how can we confidently march forward knowing all too well we might be opening up Pandora's Box ?

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