Back in January I attended a conference on emerging technologies in legal services and there were several sessions dedicated to the use of AI. The benefits to those businesses starting to leverage AI were clear, with software learning to conduct the more mundane and repetitive tasks that would normally take an employee days or weeks to complete.
But virtually every speaker had to start with a myth-busting intro as it was clear that as soon as they mentioned artificial intelligence the audience would just be sat thinking about Terminator endoskeletons marching across a field of human skulls. In fact many of the speakers were on a rebranding exercise to get people on the term 'Cognitive Computing' and distancing the technology from the more common AI connotations.
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Google have been working on a more practical solution to the public's AI concerns by implementing a process known as 'safe interruptibility', where learning systems will always be able to stopped by a human overseer. Crucially the process also ensures that the AI doesn't learn about this interruption capability and then takes steps to avoid it.
"Safe interruptibility can be useful to take control of a robot that is misbehaving… take it out of a delicate situation, or even to temporarily use it to achieve a task it did not learn to perform." - Stuart ArmstrongThe Google engineers gave an example where an AI was taught to play Tetris and actually learnt to pause a game forever to avoid losing. This behaviour wasn't exactly a WarGames scenario but still an indication of how AI may solve problems using unconventional means.
No doubt an entire sector will develop around AI safety technology and as public concerns grow so will the industry. In the future we may have to look forward to having our AI 'anti-virus' keeping our AI personal assistant in check.
I think we're a long way off needing to seriously worry about AI bringing about the end of the world, but in the shorter term it may bring about the end of some jobs.