Essay on Artificial Intelligence: Machines Behaving Like Humans

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Artificial Intelligence is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and translation between language.

Knowledge engineering is a core part of AI research. Machines can often act and react like humans only if they have abundant information relating to the world. Research associated with artificial intelligence is highly technical and specialised. The core problems of artificial intelligence include programming computers for certain traits such as knowledge, reasoning, problem solving, perception, learning, planning and ability to manipulate and move objects. AI must have access to objects, categories, properties and relations between all of them to implement knowledge engineering. Initiating common sense, reasoning and problem-solving power in machines is a difficult and tedious approach.

Robotics is also a major field related to AI. Robots are machines that can operate autonomously based on programs and commands embedded in its software. They are therefore a convergence of computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and electronics and communication engineering. Robots are designed to replace humans in fields which are viable for automated and pre-programmed operations. In recent times, ‘Artificial Intelligence’ has opened new vistas in the field of Robotics. It allows robots to also act autonomously i.e. it is an adaptive feature which has the ability to add human touch to robots. It is a cutting-edge technology with cognitive functions embedded in the robots. The advent of humanoid robots made its way in Robotics in the 20th century. The depiction of humanoid robots as a popular character also finds its mention in many Hollywood movies like Robot (2004), The Terminator etc.

Machine learning is another core part of Al. Learning without any kind of supervision requires an ability to identify patterns in streams of inputs, whereas learning with adequate supervision involves classification and numerical regressions. Classification determines the category an object belongs to and regression deals with obtaining a set of numerical input or outputs examples, thereby discovering functions enabling the generation of suitable outputs from respective inputs. Machine perception deals with the capability to use sensory inputs to deduce the different aspects of the world, while computer vision is the power to analyse visual inputs with a few sub-problems such as facial, object and gesture recognition.

From SIRI to self-driving cars, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is progressing rapidly. While science fiction often portrays Al as robots with human-like characteristics, AI can encompass anything from Google’s search algorithms to IBM’s Watson to autonomous weapons.

Artificial Intelligence today is properly known as narrow Al (or weak AI), in that it is designed to perform a narrow task (e.g. only facial recognition or only internet searches or only driving a car). However, the long-term goal of many researchers is to create general AI (AGI or strong AI). While narrow Al may outperform humans at whatever its specific task is, like playing chess or solving equations, AGI would outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task.

In the long term, an important question is what will happen if the quest for strong AI succeeds and an Al system becomes better than humans at all cognitive tasks. As pointed out by IJ Good in 1965, designing smarter Al systems is itself a cognitive task. Such a system could potentially undergo recursive self-improvement, triggering an intelligence explosion leaving human intellect far behind. By inventing revolutionary new technologies, such a superintelligence might help us eradicate war, disease and poverty, and so the creation of strong AI might be the biggest event in human history. Some experts have expressed concern, though, that it might also be the last, unless we learn to align the goals of the Al with ours before it becomes superintelligent.

The most recent development in Artificial Intelligence is Sophia. Sophia is a social humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong based company Hanson Robotics. Sophia was activated on 19th April, 2015 and made her first public appearance at South by South-West festival (SXSW) in mid-March 2016 in Austin, Texas, United States. She is able to display more than 62 facial expression. In October 2017, the robot became a Saudi Arabian citizen, the first robot to receive citizenship of any country. In November 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Programme’s first ever innovation champion and the first non-human to be given any United Nations title.

In India, a few research groups have been working on development of robots, but a breakthrough is yet to be made in the file of robots for large-scale industrial application. The groups working on robotics include R & D of the Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT), the Central Machine Tools Institute (CMIT), and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras.

Stephen Hawking. Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and many other big names in science and technology have recently expressed concern in the media and via open letters about the risks posed by Al, joined by many leading AI researchers. Why is the subject suddenly in the headlines?

Because Al has the potential to become intelligent than any human, we have no surefire way of predicting how it will behave. We can’t use past technological developments as much of a basis because we’ve never created anything that has the ability to, wittingly or unwittingly, outsmart us. The best example of what we could face may be our own evolution.  People now control the planet, not because we’re the strongest, faster or biggest, but because we’re the smartest. If we’re no longer the smartest, are we assured to remain in control?

The views of Future of Life Institute (FLI) is very relevant to the subject. FLI’s position is that our civilisation will flourish as long as we win the race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we manage it. In the case of Al technology, FLI’s position is that the best way to win that race is not to impede the former, but to accelerate the latter, by supporting Al safety research.

A captivating conversation is taking place about the future of artificial intelligence and what it will/should mean for humanity. There are fascinating controversies where the world’s leading experts disagree, such as: Al’s future impact on the job market; if & when human-level Al will be developed; whether this will lead to an intelligence explosion; and whether this is something we should welcome or fear. But there are also many examples of boring pseudo-controversies caused by people misunderstanding and talking past each other.

It is human beings who make science. Ills of science like the destructive power of nuclear weapons, the erosion of values because of spread of gross materialism, ever increasing depletion of natural resources, degradation and pollution of the environment etc. are actually the ills of man using science in a way that is destructive, undesirable and unholy. It is because the scientist in man has deviated from his social commitments, social conscience. Therefore, there are some sections in the society who want an immediate halt to the growth of scientific researches and studies.

“Everything we love about civilisation is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilisation flourish like never before, as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.”

– Max Tegmark, President of the Future of Life Institute