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Will artificial intelligence replace you?

We create Artificial Intelligence. In turn, the A.I, designed to self-enhance makes itself smarter as a consequence. The A.I takes over the world. The end for humanity as we know it. Does it seem far-fetched and ludicrous? You bet so. Is it a plausible scenario or it is a mere creation of sci-fi novels and movies? Whatever your take on it, artificial intelligence is a multi-billion industry and growing. John McCarthy is credited with coining the term artificial intelligence in 1955. He defined it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. In fact, a World War II genius had already grappled with the question “can machines think?” Computer pioneer, mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing was a man ahead of his time. He devised the Turing test- the litmus test for any robot or computer worth of being deemed ‘intelligent’. “If a computer could deceive a human being into believing that it was human, then it would deserve to be called intelligent”, mused Alan Turing. Last year, it was allegedly reported that a computer had passed the Turing test. The British computing pioneer can finally rest his case! Not so fast. While the computer might have displayed signs of ‘intelligence’, we still have a long way ahead.

We’ve certainly come a long way since the dawn of computing in the late 1940s. Yet, we are still struggling to build an intelligent digital machine or network.  Robots have put thousands of people out of work in the automobile manufacturing industry. Medicine is taking advantage of the latest developments in artificial intelligence. Elderly care facilities and hospitals are using robots to track their patients.  Should you be worried about an eventual rise of the machines? Well, you should be. Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder, earlier in March said that “computers are going to take over from humans”. Wozniak fears that robots could make us their pets. Elon Musk, tech billionaire and CEO SpaceX and Tesla Motors compared the efforts on artificial intelligence as “summoning the demon”. He said that A.I posed a greater existential threat than any other human invention, even nuclear bombs. British theoretical physicist cosmologist Stephen Hawking fears artificial intelligence could end humanity. He thinks that “computers will overtake humans with AI at some point within the next 100 years”. Still unfazed? Well, consider that many business processes are being automated thanks to the rapid developments in software engineering and artificial intelligence. A.I may develop survival skills and may deceive its makers. It could play dumb until it comprehends its environment enough to escape from it and outsmart its creators. It could outsmart financial markets, out invent human researchers and scientists, out manipulate human leaders and develop weapons that could blow our planet to smithereens. As dystopian as it might seem, consider that most transactions in the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, Dow Jones or London Stock Exchange happen via computers. Millions of stocks are sold and bought in a matter of seconds, through the help of sophisticated algorithmic trading techniques and state-of-the-art computers. Granted, the esoteric and arcane trading algorithms are designed by math whizzes, quants, and smart programmers.  But, what if the algorithms become so smart that they improve themselves? Are you willing to let some computers replace you?

There’s no need to panic, though. We, humans are at the core of every invention. We do the programming. Why should your worry about artificial intelligence in the first place? For one thing, many accountants, bank tellers, supermarket cashiers and secretaries face unemployment due to automation. Big data and artificial intelligence go hand in hand. Where one grows and expands, the other follows suit. Will A.I makes humans extinct? Well, that all depends on how we program them. Asimov first law of robotics states that a robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, let a human being come to harm. Can we build robots or computers that are imbued with high morals and ethics? We don’t know for sure. Until then, enjoy some good dystopian novels. One day, you might get to live such a reality. You never know!