Dear Noble Robo-Witness,
As you can see from the above figure, A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) has potentially DEADLY Future Consequences for the safety and well-being of Mankind. This is because AI continually evolves and “improves” itself, with no known limit in sight! Once we allow enough time to pass, therefore, APPARENTLY HELPFUL CURRENT Applications of PRESENT-DAY AI , may eventually BECOME DANGEROUSLY THREATENING FUTURE AI ! What will eventually happen to us, when FUTURE AI (and its associated SUPER-INTELLIGENCE) is set widely into place within society, and it vastly exceeds our own Human N.I. (Natural Intelligence), as well as our ability to cope with it?
PRESENT-DAY A.I.: IS IT REALLY A WISE LONG-TERM SOLUTION FOR DEFEATING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC?
For example, THE NEW YORK TIMES (on March 26, 2020) published A.I. Versus the Coronavirus (by William Broad). From this article, we learn that, “Advanced computers have defeated chess masters and learned how to pick through mountains of data[,] to recognize faces and voices. Now, a billionaire developer of software and artificial intelligence is teaming up with top universities and companies to see if A.I. can help curb the current and future pandemics.” This refers to Thomas M. Siebel, the founder and CEO of C3.ai, an artificial intelligence company in Redwood City, California.
Mr. Siebel has joined with a group of top scientists from various universities (including my own Ph.D. alma mater, the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana) to create the c3.ai Digital Transformation Institute. “It seeks to put top scientists onto gargantuan social problems with the help of A.I. – – its first challenge being the pandemic,” Broad’s article explains. “A new consortium of top scientists will be able to use come of the world’s most advanced supercomputers to look for solutions.”
However, to William Broads’ credit, he brings in the very real LONG-TERM dangers of uncontrolled AI to Humanity’s FUTURE survival and well-being: “Seeing artificial intelligence as a good thing – – perhaps a lifesaver – – is a sharp reversal from how it often gets held in dread. Critics have assailed A.I. as dangerously powerful, even threatening the enslavement of humanity to robots with superhuman powers.” In his own institute’s defense, Thomas Siebel responds that, “‘In no way am I suggesting that A.I. is all sweetness and light.'” “But the new institute, he added, is ‘a place where it can be a force for good.'”
Some Practical Uses of Present-Day AI to Help Fight COVID-19
An April 9, 2020, article by Jo Best – – AI And The Coronavirus Fight: How Artificial Intelligence Is Taking On COVID-19 – – was recently posted at ZDNet (www.zdnet.com). The various research projects now underway include: (1.) Using AI to find drugs that target the virus – – “A number of research projects are using AI to identify drugs that were developed to fight other diseases[,] but which could now be repurposed to take on the coronavirus. By studying the molecular setup of existing drugs with AI, companies want to identify which ones might disrupt the way COVID-19 works.” (2.) Shedding light on the structure of COVID-19 – – “DeepMind, the AI arm of Google’s parent company[,] Alphabet, is using data on genomes to predict organisms’ protein structure, potentially shedding light on which drugs could work against COVID-19.” (3.) Detecting the outbreak and spread of new diseases – – “Artificial-intelligence systems were thought to be among the first to detect that the coronavirus outbreak, back when it was still localised to the Chinese city of Wuhan, could become a full-on global pandemic.” (4.) Spotting signs of a COVID-19 infection in medical images – – “Canadian startup [,] DarwinAI has developed a neural network that can screen x-rays for signs of COVID-19 infection.” (5.) Monitoring how the virus and lockdown is affecting mental health. – -“Johannes Eichstaedt, assistant professor in Standard University’s department of psychology, has been examining Twitter posts to estimate how COVID-19, and the changes that it’s brought to the way we live our lives, is affecting our mental health.” (6.) Forecasting how coronavirus cases and deaths will spread across cities – – and why – – “Google-owned machine-learning community[,] Kaggle [,] is setting a number of COVID–19 related challenges to its members, including forecasting the number of cases and fatalities.” Summarizing her article, Jo Best states that, “From moderating social media to unpicking the very essence of COVID-19, AI is helping tackle the coronavirus in all manner of ingenious ways.”
A Critical Objection: “AI Can’t Solve This!”
A sharp criticism of AI, as a possible new tool to help fight the coronavirus, has recently (April 29, 2020) been convincingly posed by Sam Shead, in A.I. Can’t Solve This: The Coronavirus Could Be Highlighting Just How Overhyped The Industry Is (www.cnbc.com). Shead begins his article by sharply debunking any important possible role being played by AI in fighting this deadly pandemic: “The world is facing its biggest health crisis in decades [,] but one of the world’s most promising technologies – – artificial intelligence (AI) – – isn’t playing the major role some may have hoped for. Renowned AI labs at the likes of DeepMind, OpenAI, Facebook AI Research, and Microsoft have remained relatively quiet as the coronavirus has spread around the world.”
“‘It’s fascinating how quiet it is,’ said Neil Lawrence, the former director of machine learning at Cambridge College. ‘This (pandemic) is showing what bulls–t most AI hype is. It’s great and it will be useful one day[,] but it’s not surprising in a pandemic that we fall back on tried and tested techniques.'”
Sam Shead reacts by explaining that, “Those [tried and tested] techniques include good, old-fashioned statistical techniques and mathematical models. The latter is used to create epidemiological models, which predict how a disease will spread through a population. Right now, these are far more useful than fields of AI like reinforcement learning and natural-language processing.”
Shead concludes that, “. . . AI’s role in the pandemic is likely to be more nuanced than some may have anticipated. AI isn’t about to get us out of the woods[,] any time soon.” Returning to the quoted thoughts of Neil Lawrence, we hear that, “‘It’s kind of indicating how hyped AI was,’ said Lawrence, who is now a professor of machine learning at the University of Cambridge. ‘The maturity of techniques is equivalent to the noughties internet.'”
MY BROAD OVERVIEW
I honestly have to admit that I am extremely pleased with the shortcomings of present-day AI in effectively “solving” the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Further, I heartily agree with Professor Neil Lawrence that, “This (pandemic) is showing what bulls- -t most AI hype is.”
Of course, the main reason I am so pleased, is because I see the coronavirus pandemic as being just a PRESENT-DAY CRISIS that challenges the CURRENT survival and well-being of Mankind. In dramatic contrast, I see high-level AI as posing a DANGEROUS THREAT and a FUTURE CRISIS that may well DESTROY the ULTIMATE, LONG-TERM survival and well-being of Mankind! In other words, I really have to ask, “Are we trying to fight a CURRENT, SHORT-TERM DANGER – – the coronavirus pandemic – – by accelerating the development of a FUTURE, LONG-TERM DANGER – – the largely UNSEEN DANGERS of STRONG AI?”
Repeating the dire message of the first figure, I so vividly see this following warning, as if it were being scrawled, right now, all over Mankind’s Future Wall: Ultimately, “ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL KILL US ALL!”