It is hard to imagine the future of humanity without seeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing a major role. However, it’s not easy to predict what its role will be. The amount of change that AI can bring about is so massive - it has the potential to reshape our everyday life.
The progress we have made until today, sentiment analysis, speech and image recognition, autonomous tasks and virtual assistants, even the all-mighty AlphaZero is but the early stages of AI technology. It’s an infancy stage or so to speak. If you’ve observed the AI timeline carefully, you’d find that the growth rate is exponential and not linear.
For example, Deep Blue chess machine managed to defeat the ruling world champion, Garry Kasparov in 1997. And 18 years later, AlphaGo managed to rule the Go world as well by developing a human-like intuition. However, it only took us 3 years to reach AlphaZero which managed to beat AlphaGo Lee 100 games to 0. Earlier this year, Alibaba revealed yet another breakthrough in the world of AI language processing.
So how are things going to work out in the future, one might wonder. Terminator Skynet or some Westworld fantasy. Well, let's see.
We’ll talk about singularity in a minute, but let’s delve into the world of AI before singularity. Soon, AI will be able to perfect the tasks it’s already taking. Autonomous driving, for example, will exceed human driving and will be the better choice a hundred times over. Which in return, will solve the traffic problem potentially around the globe. Although, traffic will not be the only problem that AI can address in the short run. Virtual assistants will be much smarter and will be able to use the massive amounts of data available to help you in every way possible. Your doctor, news magazine, artist and even your boss will start using AI in many aspects of their tasks. In fact, AI systems are already getting quite skilled at creating creative content. Washington Post used Heliograph - a robot reporter - to create over 850 reports in 2016, and the technology is evolving even faster.
What the experts say
Stuart Russell believes AI will be able to leverage the power of all the available data and solve even the most complicated problems including climate change.
While Shimon Whiteson believes that we will all become cyborgs very soon. As merging machine with the human body will not be a mark of disability anymore, but more of an upgrade to our human state. Whiteson believes that humans and machines will soon become one cognitive unit. Not to forget that Elon Musk stated that the safest option of implementing high-level AI is to implement it inside of our own brains.
Singularity and Beyond
Singularity is the point where technology, namely AI, will change the human civilization in an unfathomable unique way. We often label that as the point where AI will be as smart as a human being and be able to pass the Turing test.
When AI reaches the human intelligence level, it will be able to accelerate its growth at a rate we can only imagine. Our neurons use electrochemical connections which are millions of times slower than electronic connections. Ray Kurzweil talked about this phenomenon in details in his book “Singularity is Near”.
So despite the fact that it will be as intelligent as us, it will be able to think and generate ideas at a much greater rate, and then it will be able to alter its own source code, just like we do in genetic engineering. The result will be that this AI will evolve beyond our comprehension. And as scary as it may sound, we won’t be able to understand what it’s doing even if it tried to explain that to us. Just like it’s futile to explain to a monkey that we built skyscrapers, even though it could understand that we are humans and that those tall buildings are skyscrapers.
Will they be able to love?
There’s currently a lot of work being done on the development of companion robots which provide an intimate warm lifestyle close to the real thing.
But we often wonder if machines will ever gain the ability to feel and eventually love. Well, it comes down to the question of whether things such as intimacy can be programmed or not. And we can argue and dispute, but it will be a total waste of time. However, there’s one important point, will they be able to show love? Chances are when they reach a higher level of intelligence, they might be able to show love and intimacy even without actually feeling it. Think of it the way you can show a little child that you’re afraid or happy even if you’re not.
Foglets for the win
When we think about AI civilization, we think of futuristic buildings we see in movies and flying cars. But in fact, the singularity will enable the innovation on a molecular scale. Using foglets, or nanoscale bots, it will be able to change reality as it is.
It’s even theorised that we will be able to alter our bodies using these foglets, and experience actual Augmented Reality as well as use the foglets to manipulate our nervous systems to experience virtual reality as if it was real.
Not to mention that we’ll be able to use these foglets to think faster, and become much smarter.
The merging of nanotechnology with AI will take civilisation beyond our imagination.
How relevant are we going to be?
In the presence of such a smart entity, we can pretty much deduce that the last word won’t be ours. It’s hard to put it otherwise, but we might become pets of such entity.
To summarise, the changes AI will bring will be phenomenal, but they are not here yet. So if you were starting to get scared, we’d like to assure you that even the most enthusiastic estimates believe singularity won’t be here before 30 years. It’s almost impossible to give an accurate estimate of the future beyond singularity, but we can say that the human civilization will experience prosperity on the way leading to the singularity. And to the Terminator fans, we’re sorry that we can’t assure you that Skynet is not happening because we don’t have any scientific proof against it. However, it remains far off our reach for now.
The author is Saurabh Hooda, co-founder of Hackr, a startup based out of India.