News published on the New York Post's technology site highlights new fears regarding technology becoming increasingly more intelligent, and moreover, independent.
While a little too Matrix for the liking of many, the argument does seem to be a sound one. According to the article, a group of computer scientists is debating as to whether a limitation upon research which could lead to a loss of human control is a prudent measure to take.
"A robot that can open doors and find electrical outlets to recharge itself. Computer viruses that no one can stop. Predator drones, which, though still controlled remotely by humans, come close to a machine that can kill autonomously."
These researchers, leading computer scientists in the fields of AI and robotics, met at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in California to discuss this issue in more depth. Focusing on potential exploitation of artificial intelligence by criminals and possible threats to human jobs, they concluded that whilst there was a 'legitimate concern' they generally denied the likelihood of 'highly centralized super intelligences' along with ideas that intelligence may spring from the internet of its own volition.
As examples, the scientists pointed to a number of technologies as diverse as experimental medical systems that interact with patients to simulate empathy, and computer worms and viruses that defy extermination and could thus be said to have reached a "cockroach" stage of machine intelligence.
The conference, organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, which took place on the fifteenth of February this year in private, will issue a report on its findings later in the year.
A Microsoft researcher and President of the A.A.A.I, Dr Horvitz, states that the report will try to assess the extent to which super intelligences will result in the loss of human control of computer-based intelligence. The Dr states that rather than try to relent from further research into AI, the report will explore ways of changing human attitudes to computer based technologies so as not to simply drive blindly toward a 'computer based catastrophe.'
An article published in the UK edition of Newsweek this week (July 27th) entitled: 'What Lurks Beneath', exploring the issues of German technophobia holding back its key industries seems to echo this kind of fear. Albeit referring to genetic modification rather than computer based AI, the feeling seems to be the same as that which the NYP article explores.
An interesting quote by the author states: "Until a few years ago, German schoolbooks were full of apocalyptic warnings that PC's would destroy jobs, kill interpersonal communication and turn humans into an 'anonymous code.' It seems that given the concern of scientists, perhaps these warnings were not as scaremongering as previously thought.