Smart machines that assist healthcare staff, increase industrial efficiency and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Or prophets of doom that threaten our humanity. Artificial intelligence interests us, fascinates us, and terrifies us. What do leading researchers have to say about the development of AI?
Artificial intelligence is actually nothing new. As a field of research, it has existed for 60 years and, in all likelihood, you are communicating with intelligent machines on a daily basis. AI works out the optimal route on your GPS and predicts when industrial machinery will break down. When you ask Siri to set the timer on your telephone, you are talking to an AI.
Despite the fact that intelligent machines are neither a novelty nor science fiction, many people remain sceptical. According to a survey conducted by GfK in 2017 on behalf of Huawei, 45% of Swedes are afraid of artificial intelligence.
“I believe that part of this fear is due to the complexity of the technology and the subsequent difficulty in understanding AI and the limitations it actually has,” says Daniel Gillblad, senior researcher in the field of artificial intelligence at RISE.
According to the GfK survey, the use of AI for criminal purposes is the major cause for concern. Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, for example, compares the threat posed by AI to nuclear weapons.
“Naturally, we must use the technology responsibly. Nuclear weapons have the potential to wipe us out and we therefore wish to handle them in a responsible manner. The same applies to AI. It is up to us to decide how to use AI. Our armed forces already use artificial intelligence but, of course, that doesn’t mean that we are building automated armies,” clarifies Daniel Gillblad.
Discussion is also underway regarding how society and intelligent machines.will develop over coming years. Both philosophers and scientists ask questions such as, ‘how can we know whether the telephone receptionist we are speaking to is a robot or a person?’, or ‘what will happen when machines become so intelligent that they make decisions we had not even considered?’ However, Daniel Gillblad is not overly concerned about developments.
“If it becomes apparent that this is becoming a problem, then we’ll solve it! Generally speaking, it is difficult to imagine the robot society of the future from the perspective of where we are today in purely technological terms. One must compare with how society will look then. Assume that robots appear on the streets and squares of our towns; today, that might seem like a frightening thought but, when this does actually happen, perhaps the technological leap will not be so great,” says Daniel Gillblad, who believes that AI has a positive contribution to make to social development.
“Self-driving cars are an example that is very much in the news. These autonomous vehicles are controlled with the help of AI, and the technology will reduce our carbon dioxide emissions as well as making sure we get to work quicker.”
There are many other areas in which AI can be successfully implemented, including store checkouts and administrative tasks, but also to assist doctors in examining X-rays. AIs can analyse a great deal of data very quickly and, once they have examined enough X-rays, they can learn to detect patterns that humans could never see and then identify a tumour.
“We can focus on what we’re good at and leave technology to carry out the tasks we are either ill-suited for or find boring. AI helps us to do things quicker and this makes us smarter. It will also make us more effective researchers. I think it is healthy to discuss the future and take these concerns very seriously; however, as with all the other technologies, we will learn to live with it!”