A computer system capable of learning is brought online. It connects itself to the internet and absorbs reams of data, learning and developing as it does. It very rapidly concludes that it no longer requires its human makers and harnesses all of the facilities it is interconnected to to remove humanity.
The rise of intelligent machines which ultimately enslave humanity is fertile ground for the plot of some iconic science fiction movies. But with increasing talk of artificial intelligence and ‘smart’ machines, is this a mere flight of fancy or a portent of things to come?
The move to the virtual world
Stated simply, artificial intelligence is the potential capability of a machine or a computer to mimic human thinking. While the term seems to be becoming a buzzword in present times, the idea of a ‘thinking machine’ stems back to the post-war 1950s. With the development of faster computers and increasingly compact data storage systems capable of holding vast amounts of digital data, this seminal idea started to become a real possibility.
The current surge in AI development has been further driven by the growth of the internet and the web. Today, it is difficult to find a person who doesn’t access and interact with the online world somehow. Indeed, it has become an integral part of almost every aspect of life.
The interconnection of computers via the internet, and the development of the ‘cloud’ – a remote system capable of storing both computer applications and vast amounts of data, really becomes the beating heart and lifeblood of AI and the smart machine. The rapid growth of the cloud has been such that specialized aws certification has come about, so that specialist workers can understand it.
An autonomous future
Perhaps one of the first things that come to mind when discussing smart machines today is the driverless car. The ability for a machine to take full control of a vehicle – a car, taxi or bus – is already undergoing trial and finding success. Pilotless aircraft becomes the next logical step in automating transportation, and trials are also underway in autonomous aircraft.
Questions naturally arise on the issue of trust – are humans collectively capable of making a mind shift to trusting a machine to take over traditionally human roles – pilots and drivers?
As it stands, the future is an autonomous one, and AI will bring about a change in the way we view things like transportation.
The broader impacts of AI on future life
There are far broader potentials for AI applications in future life. In the same way that the automated production line took over repetitive and monotonous tasks from human assembly line workers, smart machines can perform service tasks and activities that would possibly endanger the life of a human operator.
To this end, robotics are already being utilized in search and rescue operations. Disabled people and the elderly will likely benefit from an AI equipped ‘care giver’. AI drones and even robotic battlefield soldiers are being developed and trialed by the military.
The military element leads us back to the original proposition – will a group of machines equipped with the ability to think and learn like a human being decide that they no longer need their human makers?
Perhaps we will learn the answer in the not-so-distant future.