Tobias Roote

Science Fiction Writer

Let's talk AI.

ai armageddon

So, let's talk about AI, Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence, definition: 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 languages.

Artificial is unreal, man-made, synthetic. Made from a non natural fabric or substance to emulate or copy something real or natural. The dictionary actually defines artificial as: made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural.

Intelligence, well - do we need to define this? OK let's. The definition of intelligence is: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. But, it's subjective in that there are varying degrees and those that have more of it, aren't always those who are most capable of using it - wisely, or at all. Sometimes, those who have less - achieve more. So, it's what we do with the intelligence that we have and not how much we hold of it that makes any difference to our lives, or world.

So, the phrase 'artificial intelligence' encompasses a wide range of possibilities, but is the word 'artificial' relevant? If we remove 'artificial' from the phrase artificial intelligence, because it just means 'we' made it, then naturally enough we're just left with the word 'intelligence' and that, as we have already defined, represents 'knowledge' and 'skill'.

Let us first take knowledge. We can define this Knowledge as: facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Next, let us take skill and apply a definition to that as well: the ability to do something well; expertise.

We end up with the intelligence to gain knowledge and skill and use it to acquire, through experience or education, the ability to do something with expertise.

Where, in any of this, does the phrase 'artificial intelligence' offer up a threat to humankind?

The problem is it is easy to take a 'Hollywood theatric' approach and cast AI as the evil baddie, (that is after all what Hollywood is all about: creating fear). However, when eminent public figures prominant in the science field talk about their fear of artificial intelligence being the downfall of mankind - are they talking in Hollywood terms, theatrical doomsday scenarios, or are they talking about the artificial intelligence doing all of our jobs so well, that we no longer have to do them.

If they are talking about the former, then they're talking a load of bollocks. If the latter, then how do they define that as a doomsday scenario. Where is the reason for the creation of 'fear' in that possible outcome.

There is a responsibility by the learned to define the specific fears they each have instead of placing the whole issue in a drawer in their desk, defining it as BEWARE: [Open at your peril: Artificial Intelligence inside] - and then issuing their own individual decree across their respective academic worlds saying that artificial intelligence is something to be frightened of, without specifying that it's not actually the AI that is the danger, but the fact they are a tool. A tool which like the AK47, in the wrong hands can wreak havoc and mayhem in the civilised world.

If we recognise that the commercial application of artificial intelligence has been around for the last forty years, and it won't come as a surprise to any of you that there has been no uprising in our midst yet. Not even the sighting of UFO's have been aligned with the uprising of AI's across the world.

This just leaves us with the issue of artificial intelligence taking over our mundane lives and freeing us up to do lots of exciting things. If the 'intelligence' in AI represents a quantum increase in the ability to use knowledge and skills in more efficient and effective ways. It is reasonable to also expect that they will do a much better job of it. If we end up cleverer, because they teach us better ways to do things, then this has to take us forward to a better phase of evolution.

Now, we just have to eliminate all of the 'Bad Guys' out there that want to pervert our emerging AI's from designing the future that we want. Let's think on that for a bit (like a decade, or two) and not march to others drums that would deny us because it threatens their own vision of a future under their control.

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Welcome.
I write Space Opera SF and books that encourage the idea that a future world with AI is not necessarily a bleak place.

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