This editorial was originally published on 27 Jul 2017. It is being re-run as Steve is at Data Minds Connect today.
I used to watch science fiction movies and imagine we'd have these incredible machines that could interact with humans in amazing ways. I always believed more in the helpful and useful AI in Star Wars than the dangerous systems of movies like The Terminator or The Matrix. I could even imagine a time when we have sentient systems, though I'm not sure they are coming anytime soon.
I used to assume the Asimov's Laws of Robotics would be implemented without any issue. After all, doesn't everyone worry about security? These days I'm more cynical, and I wonder if anyone would actually bother to program limitations in a system. I expect more people would assume we'll add in the laws later, once we know the other features are working.
I do think we will get more and more systems like IBM's Watson, that are designed to handle many tasks. When I read pieces like this one from HBR, I actually get a little worried. Not because machines will destroy humans, but they will greatly impact and change our society, potentially in disruptive ways for society. While we've seen issues with manufacturing over the years, there are still humans involved, and we have learned to find other jobs over time.
The AI revolution, if that's what's happening, will occur quicker, and if the HBR piece is correct, will impact many more people, across a shorter period of time. Our economies and workforce may not adapt as quickly, which has a variety of economic implications for all of us, even those of us that might be secure in our positions. If we can teach systems to accomplish tasks at a level even close to what the average human can do, we might find ourselves either out of a job or working with some sort of robot.
I don't know how quickly we'll advance, or even how far we will go, but I do find that the leverage offered by implementing advanced technology is certainly increasing in a way that worries me.