From the Darmouth Conferences to Turing's test, prophecies about AI have rarely hit the mark. In 1956, a bunch of the top brains in their field thought they could crack the challenge of artificial intelligence over a single hot New England summer. Almost 60 years later, the world is still waiting. The "spectacularly wrong prediction" of the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence made Stuart Armstrong, research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at University of Oxford, start to think about why our predictions about AI are so inaccurate. The Dartmouth Conference had predicted that over two summer months ten of the brightest people of their generation would solve some of the key problems faced by AI developers, such as getting machines to use language, form abstract concepts and even improve themselves.
Much of today's technology reporting is focused on the potential threats posed by developments. Dangers are seen in everything from robots to flying drones and two-wheeled "hoverboards". Physicist Stephen Hawking has even warned that full artificial intelligence "could spell the end of the human race". Such concerns are not new, according to Carl Benedikt Frey, co-director of the Oxford Martin programme on technology and employment at Oxford university. "Fears about technology, and certainly fears that technology will destroy our jobs, have been with us for as long as jobs have existed," he says.
You don't have to look far to find statistics and predictions on the future impact of artificial intelligence (AI). But while self-driving cars and augmented reality headsets have excited consumers, enterprise headlines have focused more on the risk that it poses to workers. Analyst giant Forrester have claimed that 16% of jobs in the U.S. will be lost to artificial intelligence by 2025. Meanwhile, a recent report from PwC stated 30% of jobs in the UK were under threat from AI breakthroughs, putting 10 million British workers at risk of being'replaced by robots' in the next 15 years. We shouldn't expect a wide-scale revolution of robot workers across the entire workplace, of course.
There is a strange dichotomy at the moment surrounding the future of work. In public, political movements throughout the western world have seen populist campaigners railing against the threat to jobs from low-wage migrants entering a country, and outsourcing to low-cost regions by multinationals. What hasn't really been touched on is the impact automation might have on jobs in the future. What began with the famous study from Oxford University academics Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne back in 2013, which highlighted the huge number of white and blue collar jobs that could be disrupted by automation, has progressed to growing interest from governments around the world.. For instance, a report by the British government's Science & Technology Select Committee into AI examined the issue from a range of aspects, from ethics to employment.