Artificial Intelligence – Are the Machines Taking Over?

Open the pod bay doors, please, Hal.

Even if you haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, you have likely heard that famous line uttered at one point or another. Released nearly 50 years ago, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, specifically that scene, remains the symbolic gold standard by which modern popular culture marvels with a mixture of fear and awe at the existence of artificial intelligence (AI) and the implications of our own demise associated with its advancement.

AI is the science and engineering of machines that act intelligently. Advancements in the field have expanded to include what would likely have seemed like science fiction 10 years ago, but also include the more mundane applications we use in daily life that most of us never even consider. Things like the spam filter in our email programs or technology the doctor uses to look up substitute medications when the ones we normally use are out of stock. Applications that are largely invisible, but we’d nonetheless immediately miss in their absence.

Even the eye-widening awe we experience reading the latest AI breakthrough involving the replacement of a patient’s lost leg with an artificial one – one that, just as with an original limb, is controlled by the owner’s thoughts – engenders only the most positive of predispositions to this rapidly advancing field. Indeed, the happiness and improvement to the quality of life of even one individual who benefits from this kind of breakthrough far exceeds our ability to measure.

But hold on. What about AI’s current capacity to replace things less urgent than our arms and legs? I’m referring to any number of human white collar jobs previously not considered at risk to the miracle of automation – all the way from attorneys to doctors and financial analysts to journalists. “Journalists? This is starting to get a little uncomfortable,” says yours truly to no one in particular. “This is moving a little fast, don’cha think!?”

“Faster than you can say ‘built-in obsolescence,’” my inner insecurity replies.

“Oh! Obsolete!” I say aloud, joggling the digital tile lights along the edge of my phone so as to get a triple word score and sink my Words with Friends opponent as I simultaneously skim the day’s headlines in search of ideas to support my story.

Suddenly, as if to squelch my attempt to deflect my own fear of professional demise with humor, I spot a headline sure to accelerate my stress levels about a controversial announcement that Italian neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, will have the surgical and technological capability to perform the world’s first head transplant by 2017.

Wait  – WHAT?!??! OK, technically speaking, Canavero’s proposed procedure does not fall within the boundaries of the field of artificial intelligence, but the collective recoil felt by most is related to the notion that while arms and legs and eyes and teeth, etc. are all replaceable, ethical lines end at anything involving the brain, which is where artificial intelligence’s greatest advances as well as its greatest perceived threat begins.

Enter Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering and author of the [...]

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REVIEW: “Welcome to the Machine” Provokes Thought About the Future of Technology

Welcome to the Machine

Running time: 86 minutes

Theme: Technology

Director: Avi Zev Weider

Availability: VHX

Price: Rent for $6.99 or buy for $14.99

Fun Fact: It was backed on Kickstarter.

In this documentary, filmmaker Avi Zev Weider explores the debate of the impact that rapid expansion of technology has and will have. Filmed in the United States in 2012, the movie follows a few storylines of people with a close relationship to technology: a blind man experimenting with new sight technology, army officers in the Unmanned Aviation Vehicle (“drone”) department and Weider himself, whose children were born prematurely and were forced to rely on life support machines for survival.

Intertwined with these stories is the discussion over the fundamental issue of the role of technology for humans as a species. The extreme views of Ted Kaczynski, also known as “The Unabomber,” are presented throughout the movie as snippets from his Manifesto; they serve as a platform of thought-provoking ideas that are directly and indirectly touched upon by the experts interviewed. This list includes a professor of technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a philosophy professor from the University of Michigan (who directly corresponds with Kaczynski through letters), the founding editor of Wired Magazine and a professor of computer science at Yale who was a victim of one of Kaczynski’s mail bombs.

Among the experts interviewed is renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil, known for his predictions, most notably that of technological singularity – the point where artificial intelligence exceeds human capacity and control – occurring by 2045. Kurzweil supports such rapid progress and a future in which we’re able to live past biological constraints. His views are presented in stark contrast to Kaczynski’s.

Kaczynski advocated for a society modeled after the hunter/gatherer days – claiming the Industrial Revolution sparked the creation of a system that fundamentally does not prioritize the best interests of the people. Weider’s mail correspondence with him (shown in the film) is an insightful addition to the discussion.

The film succeeds in presenting both sides of the issue without an extreme bias toward one direction. It causes the viewer to re-examine his or her own ideas, or establish some in the first place. It approaches the topic from multiple angles, including philosophical, social and religious. Ultimately, it provokes some questions that aren’t immediately easy to answer. Is technology neutral as a means to an end? If not, are potential negative consequences of technology justified by the positive effects of things like being able to maximize human potential and expression? Are we blindly following technologists who are fueling an “engine of novelty,” but may not be in control of the vehicle? What’s the appropriate level of technology that we and the planet can tolerate?

These questions might be a little scary to consider, but are without a doubt important ones to address going forward. The film is a good introduction to anyone new to the debate, but doesn’t dive too deep into any particular area. If the topic interests you, expect to do some research for more information after [...]

REVIEW: “Welcome to the Machine” Provokes Thought About the Future of Technology is a post from: Well.org. Well.org designed and built by Colorado Local SEO marketing company 21st Century Technologies, Inc.

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