Will AI Be Safe for Humans?


One of the most exciting developments that scientists are busy working on – and one which has been touted for decades as the benchmark of the future – is artificial intelligence. The prospect of enhancing machine learning to such a degree that robotics can play a part in making everyday life easier is one that everyone relishes. But, with the growth of robotics and forms of AI, how do scientists intend to keep it safe and under control? By enhancing computer systems to such a level that they can think almost autonomously, are we leaving ourselves open to seeing them as a potential threat?

SOURCE: Pixabay

Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics

Every conversation about the safety of AI reverts back to a regurgitation of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. These are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come into harm.
  2. A robot must obey human orders, except if they contradict the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as this doesn’t contradict the First and Second Laws

So, under Asimov’s rules, we should be safe from AI causing us harm. But what is to stop robots from breaking these laws, as has been shown through numerous film, book, gaming, and television examples.

Can Asimov’s Laws Protect Us?

The theory behind Asimov’s laws is that they are built into the programming software of the AI, and become their very makeup, which means they cannot be overwritten. However, the phrasing of the laws to distinguish humans and robots, the fact that ignorant or unaware robots could accidentally break the laws, and the fact that robots attaining near superhuman intelligence could probably figure out how to overwrite their own data, have all been posited as ways in which Asimov’s Laws might not offer adequate enough protection.

In fact, the UK has been pressured into entrenching artificial intelligence caveats into its own laws. Furthermore, the fact that the AI may become superintelligent to humans, yet kept in a subservient role, may throw up the issue of AI ethics, which may come into play and interact with the laws. Indeed, many suspect that the issue of rights for robots may be more pressing than their takeover of humanity, which throws the world into a morally grey area that is currently unprecedented.

AI in Pop Culture

Most iterations of AI in pop culture show the robots becoming autonomous and breaking the laws. For example, Chappie from 2015’s Chappie gains autonomy; the Cybermen in Doctor Who are renowned for being aggressive towards humans, and even the AI in the TV series Humans (2015-present) can often break its programming and gain something close to emotional intelligence, which goes against the idea of it being an AI.

Gaming has also taken influence from AI and what it might lead to. Naughty Dog’s Jak II utilised AI as the guards of the fictional cities, which proved to be the protagonist’s enemies; Betway Casino’s Battlestar Galactica slot incorporates Cylons as AI to enhance the slot gameplay; Pixonic’s War Robots app pits robots against other robots, assuming that, by controlling them as a human, they have a deeper level of emotional intelligence than standard AI. Perhaps some of the strongest interpretations of AI are in the Star Wars franchise though, which shows the entire range of AI software – from droids programmed just to find targets, to droids like BB-8, C-3PO and R2-D2, which have a deeper emotional intelligence.

SOURCE: Pixabay

AI Isn’t All Bad

While most fictional interpretations of AI show humanity at their mercy, there is no guarantee that that will ever happen – and, in fact, all AI developed at present exists to serve us. In fact, it’s rather mundane. Some of the initial AI technology allows apps to analyse their direct environments, and includes dressing rooms in stores that show us what clothes look like on us; IKEA’s app that allows you to see what furniture will look like in your house, and an eBay app to analyse what size box to package your items in. The technology tested will then advance to allow AI to observe its environment. Robotic animals that we can interact with have been invented with uses for the entire family and can be used to provide companionship to those living alone and unable to care for real animals.

But the most exciting AI trend, and the one that will convince the masses of what AI can do for them, is self-driving cars, which are expected to be seen on roads by the end of the year. While some are using anecdotal reasons for not trusting AI developments – such as the glitch that causes Alexa to randomly laugh – there are many reasons to be excited for the prospect of AI in the future.

Think of AI like anything you use with a microchip. Your laptop has never attempted to jump off the table and attack you, so why would the same technology, slightly improved, be any different? The uptake of AI will only continue to improve our everyday lives.

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