Reply to post: Re: Looks at watch

The Register Lecture: AI turning on us? Let's talk existential risk


Re: Looks at watch


I don't think so.

Oh, don't get me wrong - I believe there are more pressing problems and I believe that real AI, of the type that could pose a threat to humanity, is very far off in deed - but that doesn't make it too early to start thinking about where things may lead and how best to proceed.

Think of the problems that have occurred at the intersection of technology and privacy and law recently. All that has been caused because there wasn't enough thought and talk - and action, of course - about what the future may bring and how to handle it.

The massive migration of services and communications to the online realm coupled with the huge increase in processing power and data storage has seen private corporations, criminal elements and law enforcement agencies able to access previously unimaginable troves of our personal data and regulation has lagged woefully far behind.

The explosion of commodity drones and ridiculously cheap HD and 4K cameras has seen this growing market pose risks to safety and privacy that authorities are trying to get to grips with but, now that the market is there, it's that much more difficult.

Look at the problems caused by Uber - the 'disruption'. It's a huge issue because authorities just weren't prepared for it. Think of the issues in London that amounted to an argument over what constituted a 'taximeter'. The problem? That the wording was laid down some time ago without consideration that, in the future, a nearly ubiquitous hand-held device could perform the same function.

The point is that while we may not need to work everything out right now, it's not too early to start honestly and openly discussing it. As a society, what do we want from this technology? What are our definitions - what is "intelligence"? Are there different levels and do they need to be considered separately?

On your other point, of there being more pressing concerns - I agree. But it is not as though the human race, as a whole, can't grapple with multiple issues. People have expertise in different areas and it's wrong to suggest that those people can't apply their knowledge and time to considering those problems that relate to their specialist areas just because there are other issues, in other fields, that present a more urgent problem.

Some problems require vast quantities of money and resources to address and this is mostly because they are urgent problems. Trying to get ahead of that with discussions such as this helps avoid something becoming an urgent problem down the road.

Of course, you still have to get broad agreement and buy-in but that doesn't make the exercise a waste.

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