The advancements made in artificial intelligence over the past month could mean robots become the norm in our lives sooner than some people might think.
And anyone who’s seen The Terminator or I, Robot might want a few questions answering about what the future holds.
MM spoke to Mancunian futurist and tech expert Tom Cheesewright to see what breakthroughs in technology could mean for the future.
“I take the view that humans are just super-sophisticated machines,” said Mr Cheesewright.
“That’s not to diminish the wonder of what we’re capable of – it’s incredible.
“But if you accept this principle, then you have to accept that at some point we might become sophisticated enough to create machines that can match or even surpass our capabilities.”
At the beginning of the month, Japan unveiled the Pepper robot – the world’s first machine designed to understand and react to human emotions.
Pepper reads and responds to human emotions using facial recognition and audio sensors to distinguish between moods.
And instead of being programmed to react, she learns from a person’s behaviour over time.
THE THREAT TO HUMANITY? Japan unveiled the Pepper robot – the world’s first machine designed to understand and react to human emotions (Image courtesy of The Japan Times, via Youtube, with thanks)
This unveiling was followed last week by another world first – a computer which passed the legendary Turing Test, successfully fooling people into believing it was a 13-year-old boy in a series of five-minute online exchanges.
Alan Turing, inventor of the first ever computer, created the Turing Test as a way of determining whether a computer could be classed as ‘intelligent’ in its own right.
Turing famously stated: “A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human.”
Mr Cheesewright believes that if a new era of artificial intelligence is beckoning, it could in fact pose a number of problems.
“If we do create robots that surpass our own intelligence, there’s every chance that what we create might be dangerous,” he admitted.
“But there’s also every chance that it might be benign or even beneficial.”
When asked what he thought of the bleak outcomes depicted in sci-fi movies like The Terminator and The Matrix, Mr Cheesewright referenced popular science fiction author Iain M. Banks.
Banks’ The Culture series is set in a distant future where humans and robots coexist in a utopian society.
Mr Cheesewright said: “In those novels there is a wonderful symbiosis between superhuman artificial ‘minds’ and biological beings, and I don’t see why this scenario is any less likely than the future depicted in the Terminator films or The Matrix.”
He believes that one of the things often overlooked when talking about AI developments is that human beings will advance too.
“They might do some things incredibly well – much faster than us,” Mr Cheeswright added.
“But that’s not the same as being able to apply multiple mental skills to problem solving, navigating our complex environment, or creating works of fiction.”
“Before long, synthetic biology may have opened up many more pathways to personal augmentation.
“By the time we have created a truly artificial intelligence, today’s human will not be the benchmark against which it will be measured.”
The unveiling of Pepper and the defeat of the Turing Test has set an unprecedented benchmark and the intelligence of AI’s might be heading towards the likes seen in I, Robot.
This is known by futurists as ‘the singularity’, where machines become clever enough to start improving themselves.
This would mean machines reach a point where they have the imagination to take the leaps that human scientists are taking now.
And Mr Cheesewright says he could easily foresee these advancements coming within the next 20 years.
“If and when this happens, we will have to think very hard about the ethics involved,” he admitted.
“Is this a life form that deserves our protection? What threat does it carry?
“But I don’t think any of this means we ought to limit our research, or worry about ‘playing God’. Little good has ever come from trying to limit our understanding of the world.”
Main image courtesy of TriStar Pictures via YouTube, with thanks.