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Tuesday, 4 November 2014

artificial smartness

Sculpture by Anatoly Vyatkin, 2005 (from: BIT REBELS)

“A few months ago I made the trek to the sylvan campus of the IBM research labs in Yorktown Heights, New York, to catch an early glimpse of the fast-arriving, long-overdue future of artificial intelligence. This was the home of Watson, the electronic genius that conquered Jeopardy! in 2011. The original Watson is still here—it's about the size of a bedroom, with 10 upright, refrigerator-shaped machines forming the four walls. The tiny interior cavity gives technicians access to the jumble of wires and cables on the machines' backs. It is surprisingly warm inside, as if the cluster were alive.
     Today's Watson is very different. It no longer exists solely within a wall of cabinets but is spread across a cloud of open-standard servers that run several hundred 'instances' of the AI at once. […]
     Every intelligence has to be taught. A human brain, which is genetically primed to categorize things, still needs to see a dozen examples before it can distinguish between cats and dogs.
     That's even more true for artificial minds. Even the best-programmed computer has to play at least a thousand games of chess before it gets good. Part of the AI breakthrough lies in the incredible avalanche of collected data about our world, which provides the schooling that AIs need. Massive databases, self-tracking, web cookies, online footprints, terabytes of storage, decades of search results, Wikipedia, and the entire digital universe became the teachers making AI smart.”
— Kevin Kelly, Wired
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“Tesla CEO and famous technology innovator Elon Musk has repeatedly warned about AI threats. In June, he said on CNBC that he had invested in AI research because 'I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is a potential dangerous outcome there.'
     He went on to invoke The Terminator. In August, he tweeted that 'We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.' And at a recent MIT symposium, Musk dubbed AI an 'existential threat' to the human race and a 'demon' that foolish scientists and technologists are 'summoning.'
     Musk likened the idea of control over such a force to the delusions of 'guy[s] with a pentagram and holy water' who are sure they can control a supernatural force—until it devours them. As Musk himself suggests elsewhere in his remarks, the solution to the problem lies in sober and considered collaboration between scientists and policymakers.
     However, it is hard to see how talk of 'demons' advances this noble goal. In fact, it may actively hinder it.”
— Adam ELkus, Slate
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