Google’s Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, is also a well-known “futurist.” According to Wikipedia, futurists are described as follows:
“Futurists or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose speciality is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general.”
Since he started in the 90s, Kurzweil is sitting at an 86 percent accuracy rating when it comes to his future predictions. What he foresees for us reads something like the opening text of The Terminator or Blade Runner…
2029: Artificial Intelligence (AI) will pass a valid Turing test and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence.
2030s: The first human mind will fully connect with machine via the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for thinking (perhaps via Elon Musk’s “neural lace”). This will expand human potential beyond what was previously possible.
This new benchmark in artificial and human intelligence will allow us to improve AI at a greater rate, and in turn, AI to improve itself at a much greater rate.
2045: The Singularity. AI surpasses that of humans and our effective intelligence is multiplied a billion fold by merging with the intelligence we have created.
This will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilisation.
A fair bit to take in…
What also makes this difficult to swallow is the realisation that these events might take place within many of our lifetimes. This sort of thing has unfathomable repercussions. I mean, can you imagine a future in which you no longer need to work? Where your every need is taken care of by an omnipotent computer? Kurzweil thinks…
“We’re going to be able to meet the physical needs of all humans. We’re going to expand our minds and exemplify these artistic qualities that we value.”
However, not everyone shares his optimism and the whole Skynet/Matrix scenario looms. Many of the world’s leading minds in science and technology—like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and even Bill Gates are worried about this future. What was once a Science-Fiction plot device is now, mind-blowingly, a very real scenario. What happens once AI surpasses us and starts making its own decisions? It seems we will eventually find out either way.
It also raises huge existential questions like, “what is consciousness?” and “what does it mean to be human?” But I recommend you leave this conversation until you’re a couple of drinks deep with people of similar mental capacity. (I recommend reading up on the ‘Chinese room argument’ to prepare.) In short, input and output do not necessarily equate to “thinking.”
Let’s reign this in a bit and apply to a subject (some of us) understand; social media. How are the platforms using AI?
LinkedIn: in 2014 they acquired something called Bright. It uses machine learning algorithms to offer a better job-candidate match giving both employees a better chance of hiring the right person for a job, and the candidate a better selection of relevant job opportunities. No need for recruiters to worry… right?
Facebook: for a start they’re using facial recognition to make it easier to tag people in pictures (and maybe selling it to the government, but I’ll keep my tinfoil hat off for now.) Have you seen Minority Report? You know that bit where people’s retinas get scanned and they get served bespoke adverts? Yeah, they’re basically working on that.
Chatbots: Research shows that AI bots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by 2020. So, when you’re complaining via direct message to Sainsbury’s about how the “resealable” bag of your tortilla wraps has ripped AGAIN, it’s getting increasingly likely that you're talking to a robot.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg. These are just a few examples of an ever growing reliance on this technology. I’d recommend keeping an eye on it… gives those links a read!
Just to be safe, let me check if you’re human…
“You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down…”
“It doesn’t make any difference what desert, it’s completely hypothetical…Maybe you’re fed up. Maybe you want to be by yourself. Who knows? You look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you…”
“You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping…”
“Why aren’t you helping?”