The machine uprising is upon us.
Firstly, artificial intelligence has now advanced to the point that it can comprehend and interpret the human language. Well enough so that a computer beat the two all-time best Jeopardy palyers at thier own game:
The implications of this level of AI are vast. Within a few years we could be able to interact with computers on a conversational basis. There would be no need to call some Indian tech support center when you need help; you can simply call a computer that will understand your questions.
My thoughts on this are twofold. One, Awesome. Two, Oh, Shi-.
Imagine for a second the next step. A conversational AI with learning capability. Simple enough. The computer will remember your name. Ok, what next? Self-diagnostic routines, visual sensors, etc… At what point does knowledge of one’s physical state become self-awareness? Tough question, but go on. Next, the program is given the ability to rationalize and make decisions within the constraints of it’s programming, for example, how most effectively to repair damage and complete tasks. This is getting into the realm of a true thinking machine.
All of these advancements, though seemingly innocuous alone, add up to a greater whole. A thinking, learning, understanding, and self-aware machine. With the ability to expand beyond its original database, how long before we begin to see some of the emergent properties of life develop? How long before it develops a true personality? How long before it begins asking us questions, instead of the other way around? How long before instead of reciting stored data, it begins creatively producing its own?
In short, how long before it gains consciousness and sentience?
I know this is a philosophical and science-fiction old hat, but considering the speed with which AI has advanced, I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a real dilemma we will face within my lifetime. From the first artificial intelligence research at Dartmouth College in the late 1950′s, to a game show winning computer today, AI has evolved exponentially in only 60 years.
We are standing at the edge of a philosophical precipice and it’s only a matter of time before we have to jump.