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.
Here are the slides from my York Festival of Ideas keynote yesterday, which introduced the festival focus day Artificial Intelligence: Promises and Perils. I start the keynote with Alan Turing's famous question: Can a Machine Think? and explain that thinking is not just the conscious reflection of Rodin's Thinker but also the largely unconscious thinking required to make a pot of tea. I note that at the dawn of AI 60 years ago we believed the former kind of thinking would be really difficult to emulate artificially and the latter easy. In fact it has turned out to be the other way round: we've had computers that can expertly play chess for 20 years, but we can't yet build a robot that could go into your kitchen and make you a cup of tea. In slides 5 and 6 I suggest that we all assume a cat is smarter than a crocodile, which is smarter than a cockroach, on a linear scale of intelligence from not very intelligent to human intelligence.
In an earlier blog article I wrote about how human intelligence differs from artificial intelligence, namely human intelligence is general intelligence while artificial intelligence is specialized intelligence. The article provides "food for thought" for those who fear technology evolution, and specifically AI. In today's article I offer more reflections on the evolution of AI. Put in simple words, AI is about Thinking Machines. The English computer scientist Alan Turing was the first academic who proposed to consider the question "Can machines think?" in 1950.
We live in the greatest time in human history. Only 200 years ago, for most Europeans, life was a struggle rather than a pleasure. Without antibiotics and hospitals, every infection was fatal. There was only a small elite of citizens who lived in the cities in relative prosperity. Freedom of opinion, human and civil rights were far away. Voting rights and decision-making were reserved for a class consisting of nobility, clergy, the military and rich citizens. The interests of the general population were virtually ignored.