By Bhavik Sarkhedi
In 2016, the top four companies in the world- Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple heavily invested in technologies aimed at self-learning, also referred to as Artificial Intelligence. In the 18th century, approximately 200 years before, humanity entered the first phase of a revolution that history had never witnessed before. It changed the way the way we thought, the way we worked, and the way we lived. Today, at the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, we find ourselves at the same stage. Artificial Intelligence has the potential to transform our lives, and this time it’s scarier than ever.
Artificial Intelligence is a technology unlike you would have ever witnessed.It expands and grows, just like a human being, but at an unprecedentedly high rate. Not only does it possess the power to potentially radicalize our societies, economies and the planet we live on, but also who we are, how we think and communicate and what makes us human. Artificial intelligence is not a new phenomenon, it started since the cognitive revolution, when humans started to think. We created myths which brought people together and led us to victory over our stronger counterparts- Homo erectus. Since then, we have progressed to achieve things beyond our capacity, in process creating machines that can even out-think and outsmart us; which begs the question, are we the destroyer of our own worlds?
As we move forward with our new found sensation of AI, it will evolve further, eventually becoming the driver of a new age which would have the potential to usher a new social, economic and technological zenith. Endowed with the power of intelligence, supercomputers would be able to emulate almost all natural processes. AI will empower us to engineer approximately everything, from problems of pathological diseases to predicting markets, to solving the age old problem of poverty, even re-creating our own and maybe other planets. It could make us our own Gods, omniscient and omnipotent.
We cannot avoid this version of our future as it is already in a process which cannot be undone, and must therefore accept the ramifications of it. We can also not ignore the moral, legal, political and ethical consequences of it. Current strides in genetics or biotechnology will pale if we compare it to what AI has to offer to us in a span of few years’. It will determine the shape of our future and the future of humanity in centuries beyond.
However, just like a coin, AI has two sides too. It could well be the devil that our myths have foretold since ancient times. The critics of AI are staunch believers of the fact that whenever more powerful computers gain consciousness; they will take over the world. This concept of ‘AI Singularity’ is conjuring to imagine. Just like humans look down upon their less developed counterparts called chimpanzees, we might as well be moving towards a similar fate. Time is not far when our world will be like Star Wars, with Terminators and Matrixes all around. What are the odds of super intelligent machines connecting amongst themselves to become infinitely intelligent and self-aware, and turn against us and blow us all up, or worse, use us as slaves? Is this the fate of our humanity? Meeting an end through our own creation? It’s time to think now and act fast, for the future is closer than we imagine it to be.
George Zarkadakis, while pondering over what AI lays in store for us, in his book ‘In Our Own Image’ says, ‘What a historical irony it would be if the intelligent machines that we created to be like us end up transforming us to become like them.’He makes a point. If this was to happen, we should force ourselves to question our existence, now. It is not difficult to imagine an era wherein AI leads the way we exist and govern the fate we possess. Zarkadakis states that given the success of AI in improving everyone’s life as well as proliferation of nanoscale computing devices being embedded everywhere, there will doubtless be many who would aspire to become one with the machines and integrate themselves with it. He further adds that it would result in creation of a new species called ‘cybernetics’ , that would be more than human.
Amidst all this, we need to ask ourselves a question- should we move forward and test our fate? Or shall we play safe and lead the lives like we are meant to live- ever free and unrestricted?
About the Author:
Bhavik Sarkhedi is a mechanical engineer by profession and founder of 'Write Right' - a boutique content marketing firm based out of Ahmedabad, India. He tweets - @bk_sarkhedi