AI Weekly: There are more pressing problems than god-like AI

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A religion based around artificial intelligence is in the news again, this time helmed by Anthony Levandowski, a former member of Google’s self-driving car team. His argument is that humans will eventually create AI that is more intelligent than we are, making it functionally god-like, so we might as well start planning for that eventuality.

His thinking about the rise of super intelligent machines runs parallel to that of Elon Musk, who has been trumpeting the risks of artificial superintelligence on Twitter and in public appearances. (At one point, the Tesla CEO said that threats from AI posed a greater risk than North Korea.)

But while talking about an AI god grabs headlines, we have more pressing problems to consider. The AI experts I get to speak with aren’t concerned about an artificial superintelligence suddenly cropping up in the next few months and taking over the world.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty to be concerned about when it comes to immediate and unintended consequences of the machine learning techniques already available. There’s been no shortage of ink spilled over how the algorithms behind Facebook, Google, and the like are influencing our daily lives, and even our elections. And algorithmic bias continues to plague many other systems we use on a regular basis.

Take the case of speech recognition for virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri. As a white dude who grew up in California, I have little trouble conversing with those systems, but friends and acquaintances with non-standard accents are far less lucky. That may seem like a moderate source of frustration at worst, but imagine those systems becoming portals to key services, discounts, or other functionality that’s otherwise unavailable.

In earlier eras, structural biases that didn’t involve revolutionary technology have had far-reaching effects. Consider the impact of racial bias in the design of expressways and parkways in the New York metropolitan area. And photographers are still contending with the legacy of decisions that made film better suited to capturing people with lighter skin.

It stands to reason that decisions we make about AI systems today, even if their intelligence is far from godlike, could have similarly outsized impacts down the road.

As always, for AI coverage, send news tips to Blair Hanley Frank and Khari Johnson and guest post submissions to Cosette Jarrett — and be sure to bookmark our AI Channel.

Thanks for reading,

Blair Hanley Frank

AI Staff Writer

P.S. Please enjoy this video: Where AI is today and where it’s going

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