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Consider Indirect Threats of AI, Too

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Alan Bundy's Viewpoint "Smart Machines Are Not a Threat to Humanity" (Feb. 2017) was too limited in light of the recent accomplishments of artificial intelligence (AI). Reducing the entire field of AI to four "successful AI systems"—DeepBlue, Tartan Racing, Watson, and AlphaGo—does not give the full picture of the impact of AI on humanity. Recent advances in pattern recognition, due mainly to deep learning, for computer vision and speech recognition have achieved benchmarks comparable to human performance;2 consider AI technologies power surveillance systems, as well as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Echo personal assistants. Looking at such AI algorithms one can imagine AI general intelligence being possible throughout our communication networks, computer interfaces, and tens of millions of Internet of Things devices in the near future. Toward this end, Deepmind Technologies Ltd. (acquired by Google in 2014) created a game-playing program combining deep learning and reinforcement learning that sees the board, as well as moves the pieces on the board.1 Recent advances in generative adversarial learning will reduce reliance on labeled data (and the humans who do the labeling) toward machine-learning software capable of self-improvement.

It is not because four well-known AI applications are narrowly focused by design that smart machines are not a threat to humanity. This is a false premise. Smart machines are a threat to humanity in indirect ways. Intelligence runs deep.


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