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Check Out the Future of Artificial Intelligence

October 2017 was the month that heralded the world's first android citizen, Sophia, and by November she was already talking about having children.

 

Sophia the Robot, a robot that looks like a human female

image credit: International Telecommunication Union

The world took a collective breath as those infamous words echoed in our minds:

"I'll be back."

We are a long way from Skynet of the Terminator movies and the extinction of humanity by robot apocalypse, but some of the world’s leading tech innovators have signaled a warning about the influence of artificial intelligence in our military, our communities, our cars, and our homes. Is this concern justified? Certainly. Should it lead to fear? Not necessarily. 

For a lot of experts, the question really boils down to issues of accountability and responsibility. Who is responsible for designing checks and balances that ensure AI doesn’t infringe upon basic human rights, and do these innovators put the interests of society above their bank accounts?

 

The exterior of the Amazon Go Store in Seattle

image credit: SounderBruce

In an era where “swarm-drones” are the future of warfare, it seems reasonable to demand extra accountability from tech companies who typically work behind closed doors designing software that not only evolves, but actively self-propagates, such as Google’s AutoML. On the flip side, supporters argue that AI dramatically improves efficiency for businesses and consumers alike, taking a lot of tedium and stress out of daily life. The New York Times reported that 2018 has already seen some controversy on this issue, with Amazon launching a supermarket managed entirely by a sophisticated AI system. Many fear this move will eliminate jobs, while others say it will liberate the workforce from menial tasks such as restocking the olive oil or scanning packages of toilet paper. Either way, the customers are happy to skip the lines.  

Perhaps the person known best for a hardline approach against AI is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla. In heated debates with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Musk contended that AI represents an “existential risk for human civilization.” Strangely, Musk suggests that rather than fight the tide, the only way to ensure both accountability and responsibility is to democratize AI by making it more publically accessible.

Last year Musk’s company OpenAI partnered with Google DeepMind to make all of their coding free and open to the public. This not only allows for public oversight, it also opens up exciting opportunities for education. You can see some of the public efforts over at the DeepMind Lab blog. Not exactly The Matrix, is it? Much of the opensource code is still in its infancy, but now that kids are learning to code before learning to read, platforms like these can certainly lead to an exciting future that we can't even begin to imagine.

 

Baby in a blue shirt using a notebook computer at a desk

 

Are your kids fascinated by robots? To introduce them to this topic, check out Robotics: Discover the Science and Technology of the Future with 20 Projects, and keep your eyes peeled for our new book about Artificial Intelligence coming soon from Nomad Press!

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