Thursday, September 22, 2011

Robot small talk: Humans need not fear progress in artificial intelligence

The author below references Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov, but clearly has never read their work. They have no "doomsday scenarios" in their work, at least as regards artificial intelligence! At least, not as a constant theme.

From the Financial Times: Robot small talk: Humans need not fear progress in artificial intelligence

Forget the doomsday scenarios of science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, or the optimism of Marvin Minsky, a founding father of artificial intelligence. Woody Allen turns out to have predicted most accurately the development of robot brains, and the good news is that we humans have little to fear.

An experiment by two Cornell University PhD students has revealed the shortcomings of computer intelligence – and they are distinctly human. Two chatbots – online computers designed to hold plausible conversations with humans – were asked to talk to each other. Within minutes, these screen-bound avatars engaged in a match of infantile argument, in scenes remarkably similar to the ill-tempered exchange between Mr Allen’s robotic Jewish tailors in his classic 1973 comedy Sleeper.

A rapid acceleration in the power of computing may have led to huge advances in artificial intelligence. But researchers have not yet found solutions to address the human weaknesses that we inevitably hand on to our creations. These robots are, after all, merely a mirror of their masters.

By 2008 personal computers were able to handle 10bn instructions per second, on a par with the brain of a guppy. Experts estimate that within 30 years robots will be capable of processing roughly 100 trillion instructions per second – about the same as the human brain. And when robot brains begin to rival human intelligence, the theory is that the era of post-human evolution will begin. Technology will develop at an exponential rate, taking human knowledge to places never dreamt of.

That may be true. But only if we overcome our own flaws. Otherwise Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator may be too busy rowing with his wife either to overthrow the human race or to deliver the answer to life, the universe and everything. To paraphrase Woody Allen’s bickering robots: “We got simple. We got complicated.” And we got just plain human.

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