Should we be aware of machine rebellion

Jun 26th, 2016 | By | Category: Ad Operations

When we were kids, we all dreamed about mystical and heroic adventures, such as travelling to other planets, or fighting with aliens. Robots and cyborgs were a rightful part of almost every boy and girl dreaming about the future. And later, we saw all those great movies and read plenty of fascinating books which engraved the fear of machine rebellion – even in the form of a joke – into our heads. There are so many speculative articles and videos regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and what it means, even mysterious rumours about five hundred invincible Arnold Schwarzennegers on standby in the US army, that its meaning has become confusing. Let’s make it as simple as possible.

We first need to figure out what we mean by intelligence. In the distant 2011, IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, won the first prize in the “Jeopardy!” television show. It won against two top performers while having no connection to the internet. Even further back, in 1996,  when the field of computer science was in its infancy, a computer won the first game of chess against the world champion. Now in the present, computers can drive a car and even an aeroplane. Does this mean that AI is already here?


If you say yes, then I have a yarn for you. Imagine Moscow during the mid 1980s. There is a  big event dedicated to the possibilities of Electronic Calculating Machines in medicine. Every attendant agrees that computers will replace people in the very near future, will make the diagnostics and cure the sick, injured and wounded without any human interference. At the end of the conference, an old and merited academic desires to express himself. He slowly walk to the dais. “A long time ago in the 1920s, when I was a fresh-year worker at the hospital, some big fish from the party came with his wife” – began the academic. “Six doctors tried to figure out what’s wrong with her and they all failed. My teacher gave her only one gaze and sent her to do a Wassermann’s test. Now tell me what kind of machine is able to make a syphilis diagnosis just because the patient had the eyes of the hoe?”.

So let us agree that the above listed achievements of AI aren’t true evidence of intelligence. It’s called “Weak AI” e.g. Artificial intelligence which can equal or exceed a human in one particular area. The most popular theory nowadays are dividing AI on “Weak AI” and “Strong AI”. It’s more like philosophical contemplation. “Strong AI” should have strong decision making skills, the ability to self-educate, to plan in advance, and the ability to communicate with a natural language. It should also have consciousness, and the ability to confess.

“Weak AI” adepts are using the famous “Chinese room” argument to argue their case. The “Chinese room” is a mental experiment – indeed, Schroedinger wasn’t the only one who used such things. Let us imagine an ordinary human inside of a room. This ordinary, everyday person doesn’t know the Chinese language, but he has tablets with precise instructions such as “take the hieroglyph from the second basket and put it close to the hieroglyph which you took from the first basket”. An observer asks the questions and expects to get an answer to them. Instructions are made in such a manner that, after taking all the appropriate steps, the hieroglyphs are combined to give the right answer. Basically, the instruction is similar to a computer algorithm. But as soon that ordinary human cannot learn the meaning of any hieroglyph there, the computer is not be able to communicate with people as he should. Even though the system could pass the Turing test, it won’t be able to think since it doesn’t understand the natural language. Thus, the “Strong AI” could not be possible at all.

As a final word, according to the majority of the scientists, we are not even close to the times when SkyNet will rule the world side by side with HAL9000 and Stanislaw Lem’s supercomputers. Also, those who are hoping to have computers do all the work while we rest on the beach should also abandon this hope – and not because there are not enough beaches for everyone. However, we can still take advantage of the benefits which “Weak AI” gives to us in almost every aspect of our life. We just need to accept that we won’t find true intelligence in machines. At least not in the near future.

About the Author:

Stanislav Kuhta, marketing manager at SmartyAds, global Multi-Channel programmatic solution

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