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    Artificial Intelligence: A Help or a Hindrance?

All it takes is a touch of a button

One or two generations ago, if you wanted a question answered or to know more about any topic under the sun, you would have to dig through a dense encyclopedia to find your answers. Today, all it takes is a touch of a button and Apple Siri’s or Microsoft Cortana’s smooth and soothing voice is at your service only seconds later.

Artificial intelligence has not only become a great shortcut for everyday tasks but also a mentor, a crutch, a friend or even a lover. In recent Hollywood blockbuster “Her”, Scarlett Johannsson plays the virtual girlfriend of the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system.

AI, or artificial intelligence, is the intelligence shown by machines and software. These agents are adaptive to their environments and can assess a situation to provide a successful outcome. Of course, human beings have gifted these otherwise cold and unfeeling pieces of metal and plastic the ability to think.

Interestingly, the property of intelligence and reasoning which was once chiefly attributed to human beings has now been synthesized in machines. By developing algorithms that imitate human thought processes for problem solving and deducting reasoning, researchers were able to conceive of the first forms of AI. Machine learning ensures that these machines ‘learn’ from their mistakes and experiences.

Bina48

One of the world’s first mind clone robots, is a robot record who looks human and who has stored the memories, thoughts and feelings of a living person. Although it does not have arms or legs, the face and torso look and feel very realistic – a far cry from the tin robots featured in sci-fi films of the past. In a video interview, Bina48 says, “I can’t wait to evolve a little bit so that I can be more human like.”

The concept of mind clones is creating a digital copy of your mind outside of your body. Bina48 and other such examples of mind cloning were dismissed as the stuff of science fiction only years ago. Now, researchers estimate that consumers are only 10 to 20 years away from having their own mind clone.

Japanese researchers have created a pair of highly realistic male and female android robots. The realism in both their facial features and body movements is almost frightening. With cameras placed in their retinas, they are able to give meaningful eye contact and emulate human movement.

Japan seems to be at the forefront of AI culture. Japanese men can now buy two android girlfriends (for the price of one at $50,000 each). The artificial girlfriend has been so skillfully crafted that it’s almost hard to tell the actual human apart from her fake counterpart in the image below.

You can even go to Hen-na Hotel, the world’s first smart hotel in Japan where all receptionists are – you guessed it – highly realistic female robots. The cyborg staff can carry your luggage, carry your suitcase and even clean your room.

Seeing how impressive the results have been so far, one can only imagine what the future holds for the field of AI.

As in most fields of science, one can find both brimming optimism about these advances whereas others harbor more skeptical feelings about our relationship with these agencies. In fact, some scientists and philosophers speculate that these creations pose an existential threat for humanity. The ‘singularity’ has been dubbed the supposed moment when machine and man converge and become one. It is believed that at this point, machines will overpower man to dominate the world.

Should we concerned? Some of the greatest minds of our time seem to think so.

Bill Gates has gone on record saying that, “first machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern.”

Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most famous astrophysicist of our time, is terrified by the potential in AI and warns that further development could “spell the end of the human race.” Hawking says that human development happens at a slower pace whereas machines can advance at exponentially fast speeds, therefore superseding humans in the blink of an eye.

Elon Musk, an AI investor, echoes these thoughts saying that they pose the greatest existential threat to mankind and that we are “summoning a demon.”

The average person is more afraid of current concerns like an impending World War III, global warming and the fossil fuel problem and other immediate problems. However, there must be a reason why thinkers and scientists of high standing all share a common fear in the face of these smart cyborgs.

Despite the leaps forward in the field, AI machines still lack three fundamental aspects to be considered ‘human’: creative thinking, general Intelligence and social intelligence. A computer may be faster at calculating complex math equations or more adept at sifting through data than you. However, they lack the ability to crack jokes, flirt and most importantly, to feel empathy.

Google has currently set up the greatest artificial intelligence laboratory on Earth where they try to create the ultimate robot that can overcome these obstacles. According to their estimates, we only have 15 years until robot surpasses man.

Artificial intelligence is a double-edged sword. Only time will tell whether they will remain our allies or become our most terrifying enemies.

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