Will artificial intelligence (AI) solve many of our problems or create new ones that are even worse? These questions are being asked more frequently because literally every day, the technology is improving and its use is becoming more widespread.  Scientists warn that these questions need to be resolved soon and, if they are not, preventing the dangers AI poses may become impossible. 

AI enables machines, computers, and other devices to do things that typically require human intelligence. The technology can analyze a great deal of data in real time and use the conclusions to make fast and accurate decisions.  AI is used to study complex issues in math, medicine, psychology, to predict stock and commodity prices, and by military strategists, among applications.

Founded in 1955, the technology has developed steadily. But more recently advances and breakthroughs are coming at breakneck speed. Following are just a few examples of how AI is being used to save labor, lower costs, and increase safety. 

*Pepper is billed as the world’s first robot that can recognize faces and understand human emotions. This helps explain why Pepper is very popular with people who meet it and why it is being used by more than 2,000 companies in finance, retail and other industries.  In retail, for example, Pepper draws more shoppers, makes their shopping experience more enjoyable, and promotes additional purchases. It also gathers very useful information about customers’ shopping habits and preferences.

*Atlas is a humanoid robot that can jump, do somersaults, and even backflips without falling.  It can carry a heavy backpack while walking over rocky terrain and even withstand a swinging 20-pound metal ball that’s slammed into it. These features make it ideal for search and rescue operations in extreme conditions.

*HRP-5P doesn’t have the catchiest name in town, but it does get the job done – particularly when it’s one that requires moving heavy objects. It can easily lift sheetrock off a pile, fit it onto the desired location, and use a hand drill to secure it there. HRP-5P was developed by a Japanese firm to help offset problems arising from labor shortages caused by that country’s aging population and low birth rate.

A Word To The Wise

Despite AI’s obvious benefits, people very knowledgeable about this technology are warning that it could introduce serious hazards.     

One of these people is AI expert Janelle Shayne. “The danger of AI is not that it’s going to rebel against us but that it’s going to do exactly what we ask it to do,” she said in a TED Talk. “AI can be destructive and not know it. This happens all the time.”

One explanation is that it can easily misunderstand what it’s told. For example, it might understand the sentence “Mary had a little lamb,” as meaning that Mary gave birth to a little lamb, once owned a little lamb, or ate a little lamb. 

According to the Future of Life Organization, “there is no reason to think that AI could become intentionally benevolent or malevolent.” The danger, however, is that it could be programmed to do something devastating.  Alternatively, it could be programmed to do something beneficial but develop a destructive method of achieving this goal. 

Critics of AI have said the technology will make people lazier and eliminate jobs; also, it’s impossible for anyone in the workplace to “bond” with a machine. 

What, Me Worry!

But there are other drawbacks that are much worse.  In fact, some of the most famous people in science and business have warned about AI, including Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and most vocally, Elon Musk. Many leading AI researchers agree with them. Recent developments in the technology explain why. 

AI has been used to produce modern art, and experts who have seen those paintings describe them as “coming from hell,” “terrifying,” and that they “should serve as a warning.”  “This is the soul of AI and tells us we are staring into an abyss.”

Some Wall Street banks have started calling traders and other employees back to work in their offices. When they get back there, Pepper, the social humanoid robot, may be waiting to greet them. Pepper will be patrolling offices, trading floors, and various departments to make sure the employees there are practicing social distancing.  And it also will recognize which employees are not wearing masks and tell them, “they have to wear one properly.” Employees who repeatedly violate these regulations may be reported to management.

Elon Musk, in particular, has become very outspoken about the risks the world could be facing in the foreseeable future. “We’re headed toward a situation where AI is vastly smarter than humans and the existential threat it poses is less than five years from now,” he told Swishe. “I do think we need to be very careful about the advancement of AI.” In a different interview he warned that “With AI we are summoning the devil.” 

Years ago, AI-powered computers were advanced enough to defeat the world chess champion as well as the world champion GO, a game described as even more complicated than chess.

Meanwhile, breakthroughs in the technology are unfolding with incredible rapidity. Nautilus, a supercomputer that was used in the search for Osama Bin Laden, is now trying to predict future events.

Google has created AI that evolves on its own.  The technology can “automatically discover” unknown algorithms and develop other AI programs without any human intervention.” Last year, Google announced a breakthrough that enabled its quantum computer to do a calculation in 200 seconds that previously would have taken the highest-end supercomputer in the world 10,000 years to complete.  

Researchers at George Washington University have achieved a breakthrough in the development of AI that enables machines to learn unsupervised at the speed of light, reports The Independent.  Microsoft announced a new supercomputer it describes as having human-like artificial intelligence. And Open AI’s new computer composed a very well-written essay geared to convince readers that they have nothing to fear from AI. 

Google, IBM, and Facebook are just a few of the major companies pouring human and financial resources into this technology. China is reportedly spending many billions on it. 

At least so far, judging by what has been documented, AI has not been become a major threat to society. How long do you think it will be before our luck runs out, chas v’shalom?

 Source: www.brookings.edu; www.builtin.com; www.cnbc.com; www.futureoflife.org; www.independent.co.uk; www.techrepublic.com; www.towardsdatascience.com; www.vox.com; YouTube videos: 9 Most Advanced AI Robots – Humanoid and Industrial; Google claims quantum computing breakthrough NBC News

Gerald Harris is a financial and feature writer. Gerald can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.