Collaborating Authors


The Real Risks of Artificial Intelligence

Communications of the ACM

The vast increase in speed, memory capacity, and communications ability allows today's computers to do things that were unthinkable when I started programming six decades ago. Then, computers were primarily used for numerical calculations; today, they process text, images, and sound recordings. Then, it was an accomplishment to write a program that played chess badly but correctly. Today's computers have the power to compete with the best human players. The incredible capacity of today's computing systems allows some purveyors to describe them as having "artificial intelligence" (AI). They claim that AI is used in washing machines, the "personal assistants" in our mobile devices, self-driving cars, and the giant computers that beat human champions at complex games. Remarkably, those who use the term "artificial intelligence" have not defined that term. I first heard the term more than 50 years ago and have yet to hear a scientific definition. Even now, some AI experts say that defining AI is a difficult (and important) question--one that they are working on. "Artificial intelligence" remains a buzzword, a word that many think they understand but nobody can define. Application of AI methods can lead to devices and systems that are untrustworthy and sometimes dangerous.