Ever since God created man, the Almighty has assured us of our sovereignty over the planet and control over all of its creatures. It is for this reason we fear the idea of aliens who may be more intellectually advanced than us or the emergence of intelligent machines that might think independently.
A boon or bane
Our fear of the appearance of those who surpass our intelligence is evident from the science fiction and futuristic films that speak about this subject (such as Terminator or Star Wars films). However, this fear of the emergence of entities that may surpass our intelligence has not stopped people from continuing to make machines that think for themselves. In America and Japan in particular, research is rapidly advancing towards this goal. American technology companies excel in thinking software, while Japan excels in making mechanical robots that I have seen operating in restaurants, hotels and train stations.
I think that the most important problem facing the development of artificial intelligence is the lack of agreement among humans over the definition of intelligence and what might come after it – i.e. machines that become conscious and independent in themselves. The prospect of this ominous future frightens us and stops us from agreeing on putting a specific ceiling on the supposed intelligence level for futuristic machines.
It is certain that once smart machines slip out of human control, humans might become slaves of another species, and smart devices will be their greatest legacy.Fahad Amer Al-Ahmadi
The mystery of the future is what causes disagreement among people - between supporters and opponents of such machines. Take for example Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Inc. that is involved in the production of electric cars. He believes that artificial intelligence is the greatest threat to our existence as human beings. On the other hand, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is of the view that artificial intelligence will improve people's lives and make them more easy and comfortable. The physicist Michio Kaku believes that smart robots will become an extension of humans and the reason for their rebirth. It’s difficult for humans to travel in space because of their short life span, especially since space missions in the future may take thousands of years. The solution in his view would be to make robots that can travel in space for long periods until they find a suitable planet where they can grow human embryos and start a new colony.
Two ominous words: ‘Appear’ and ‘control’
I personally regard the words ‘appear’ and ‘control’ as crucial to any discussion on the subject. Artificial intelligence machines began to actually ‘appear’ with the coming of new devices - mainly the mobile phone and the smart applications within it. The question of turning artificial intelligence into robots that control humans (as in the Terminator) is a prospect that is difficult to occur but cannot be ruled out in the case of an unexpected enhancement in artificial intelligence.
The level of attainable artificial intelligence is difficult to predict. One cannot guess when the intelligence of machines will develop on its own to outsmart human intelligence and get out of human control. It is certain that once smart machines slip out of human control, humans might become slaves of another species, and smart devices will be their greatest legacy.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Fahad Amer Al-Ahmadi is a Saudi columnist who writes for Al-Riyadh newspaper.