Speaking in Washington, D.C. earlier today, former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger said he's convinced of AI's potential to fundamentally alter human consciousness--including changes in our self-perception and to our strategic decision-making. He also slammed AI developers for insufficiently thinking through the implications of their creations. Kissinger, now 96, was speaking to an audience attending the "Strength Through Innovation" conference currently being held at the Liaison Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference is being run by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which was set up by Congress to evaluate the future of AI in the U.S. as it pertains to national security. Kissinger, who served under President Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, is a controversial figure who many argue is an unconvicted war criminal.
What if machines learn to communicate with each other? What if they begin to establish their own objectives? What if they become so intelligent that they are making decisions beyond the capacity of the human mind? Those are some of the questions the 95-year-old Kissinger poses in a piece published by the Atlantic under the apocalyptic headline: 'How The Enlightenment Ends.' Kissinger's interest in artificial intelligence began when he learned about a computer program that had become an expert at Go -- a game more complicated than chess. The machine learned to master the game by training itself through practice; it learned from its mistakes, redefined its algorithms as it went along -- and became the literal definition of'practice makes perfect.'
The context: Kissinger is referring to artificial general intelligence, a future form of AI that would be capable of human-like thought in a variety of fields. That's very different from today's AI: algorithms that perform narrow tasks like identifying images and operating self-driving cars. The big picture: I spoke with a half-dozen people from different fields about the essay. Some found it hard to fathom given how far AI is from general intelligence. Others, however, agreed with Kissinger's central thesis.
Every day brings considerable AI news, from breakthrough capabilities to dire warnings. A quick read of recent headlines shows both: an AI system that claims to predict dengue fever outbreaks up to three months in advance, and an opinion piece from Henry Kissinger that AI will end the Age of Enlightenment. Then there's the father of AI who doesn't believe there's anything to worry about. Meanwhile, Robert Downey, Jr. is in the midst of developing an eight-part documentary series about AI to air on Netflix. AI is more than just "hot," it's everywhere.
Most companies are not very well prepared for the weaponizing of cyberspace by foreign governments. That was part of an assessment of the current state of cyberspace by Eric Schmidt, former chairman of Alphabet, Inc. and CEO of Google. Schmidt gave the remarks during his keynote address at the two-day annual conference of the Yale Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy, which kicked off on April 6. This year's conference, "Understanding Cyberwarfare and Artificial Intelligence," drew both academics and practitioners. This was the seventh annual conference of the Johnson Center, which was made possible by Dr. Henry Kissinger's donation of his papers to Yale and a generous gift from Charles B. Johnson '54 and Nicholas F. Brady '52.