As we look back on technological advancement within the last century, it’s truly amazing to see how far we have come. From the introduction and subsequent adoption of the first personal computers in the early 80s, to the development and proliferation of handheld super-computers we call smart phones, it may seem to some as if the speed at which innovation is happening is ever-quickening.
Ten years ago, the idea of self-driving cars may have seemed delusional; the thought of intelligent robot assistants entering the workplace a distant vision of a dystopian future. And yet here we are today, with civilisation depending upon technology like never before and the boundaries between computers and inanimate objects well and truly crossed by the development of IoT.
As the power of computers increases with each innovation, we humans are edging ever closer to the possibility of creating a machine that is undoubtedly more intelligent than we are. This concept is commonly known as The Singularity; the idea that the invention of artificial superintelligence [ASI], in conjunction with vast development in robotics, will spur runaway technological advancement so great that life as we know it will never be the same again.
In this brave new world hypothesised and explored at length in science fiction, machine is more powerful than man; the human ecosystem that has evolved in line with incremental innovation forever changed by the arrival of superintelligence. It’s an idea that both Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have dubbed as the catalyst to human extinction – it may seem extreme, but whether or not you agree with this viewpoint, there’s no denying that the arrival of ASI is fundamentally disruptive.
It’s a concept that forces us to ask ourselves to what extent we want ASI to change our lives should we succeed in inventing it. It also raises concerns as to our ability to keep up with super-intelligent machines in a not-too-distant future.
Naturally, there are those who believe that the combination of artificial intelligence and human intelligence will be the key to keeping one step ahead. In theory, creating a computerised superhuman might be possible through leaps in bioengineering or a brain-computer interface that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Black Mirror. In reality, it’s near-impossible to determine how the human brain will evolve, and even the concept of upgrading our own intelligence with a supercomputer is one that society as we know it is unlikely to accept on an ethical level for a long time to come – and understandably so.
However, as technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed and the debate as to whether automation will replace human workers becomes less hypothetical with every generation, what part will we play in economic growth in the age of superintelligence?
While American inventor Raymond Kurzweil predicts the year of the singularity to be 2045, there’s no telling as to the exact timeline of superintelligence. If anything is certain it’s that the course we have charted towards the technological singularity forces us to consider the risks that come hand in hand with AI. After all, would robots powered by superintelligence have any reason to promote our survival over their own? When Facebook’s chatbots began creating their own language that researchers couldn't understand back in 2017, we already caught a glimpse of the truth about intelligent machines: the more they evolve, the less tendency they have to create outcomes desired by humans.
It wasn’t as if the content of the messages communicated between Facebook’s chatbots seemed damning by any means – it was the fact that both machines could understand each other and continue communicating in a way that became incomprehensible to human researchers.
At present, we are still able to panic and pull the plug when our creations toe the ethical line – even when such developments are completely accidental. However, having already achieved great feats in the field of automation, robotics, IoT and intelligence, the discussion surrounding the impact of the technological singularity is becoming too real to ignore.
The opportunities that could arise from a future driven by superintelligence are of course numerous, but before we can dismiss the threat of sentient AI as hyperbole, we must first determine what we hope to achieve and, perhaps more importantly, what we envision for the future of the human race.
If you want to know more about the possibilities of artificial intelligence and what they could mean for your business, we can help you make the most of it. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the office on 01225 220155.