We’re on the cusp of artificial intelligence (AI) impacting a number of tasks and skills that up to now have been performed by humans. Computers, algorithms, and software will supplement and replace human activities and decision making in a wide range of areas from the mundane to the advanced, experts predicted in a recent survey.
AI is expected to have massive social consequences ranging from replacing existing jobs to creating entirely new ones. And one technology executive even predicts the demise of civilization from AI.
What’s coming in AI and how soon? A survey on the timing of AI advances was conducted by the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University and the Department of Political Science at Yale University, questioning researchers who published at the 2015 NIPS and ICML conferences, two of the premier venues for peer-reviewed research in machine learning and AI.
Twenty-one percent of the 1634 authors responded to the survey invitation. The questions related to the timing of specific AI capabilities, the dominance of AI over occupations, and to the social impact of AI.
The ability to use AI for automatic language translation is expected to be here by 2024. Using AI to write high school essays without human intervention will be available just two years later in 2026. And the ability of artificial intelligence to drive a truck on its own is expected to be available by 2027.
Using AI to replace retail clerks will be in place by 2031. Of course, we’re already seeing kiosks replace counter personnel at fast-food restaurants. And writing a bestselling book completely by a machine that exceeds the skill of a human author will occur by 2049, according to the survey.
Medicine is another area where AI is making huge inroads. Already it’s being used to analyze the symptoms and diseases of millions in order to look for patterns and trends and then use the findings to make predictions well before a doctor can.
But that’s just the beginning. The survey says that by 2053, AI will match the skills of a dedicated surgeon.
We’ve seen the example of self-driving cars that are programmed to drive without human intervention, relying on complex GPS maps, sensors and machine learning, where machines learn to perform better with more use. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of what AI technology will be capable of doing.
As AI develops, it will affect everything around us, aided by the proliferation of inexpensive hardware, faster microprocessors, machine learning, huge databases in the cloud and new software capabilities.
AI will be used to enrich our lives and improve our health, but also to reduce our liberties and freedoms. Artificial intelligence is one of Facebook’s priorities, and we can only guess how that will turn out.
China has been installing millions of cameras with facial recognition, similar to what Facebook has implemented online to track people on the web based on their images. China is using these AI capabilities to track its citizens and to recognize individuals and determine their activities and attitudes based on their facial expressions and body movements. They are actually assigning a score to their individual citizens based on their behavior.
However, AI has its opponents. Most notably, one of the most outspoken critics is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Space-X. Musk warned that AI could be a disaster in the making. According to Vanity Fair, Musk told his biographer Ashlee Vance that his friend Larry Page, co-founder of Google and now the CEO of its parent company, Alphabet, could have perfectly good intentions but still “produce something evil by accident”—including, possibly, “a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind.”
Elon Musk also criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s AI activities, saying that Zuckerberg’s understanding of the future of artificial intelligence (AI) is “limited.” Musk was responding to a comment by Zuckerberg in which he said the Tesla CEO’s doomsday view of AI is “pretty irresponsible.” Musk recently responded by deleting the Facebook pages for SpaceX and Tesla and erasing their millions-strong followings.