It could be some of the most alarming news for humankind- research around the future of Artificial Intelligence is predicting that the human race could vanish within our lifetime, by 2050 to be more precise. But then the same study says humans can amazingly become immortal. From extinct to immortal, so which is it?
Jeff Nesbit, former director of legislative and public affairs at the National Science Foundation and author of more than 24 books, has thoroughly examined the latest thinking on Artificial Intelligence or AI capabilities. Based from his studies, he then concludes that the human race could cease to exist by 2050- or that we become immortal.
Nesbit says this is due to artificial intelligence transforming into artificial super -intelligence which says AI will evolve into a supercomputer which has the capacity to learn so quickly that it surpasses human intelligence, and will then have the ability to solve all our problems.
There are those who have some varying beliefs, however. Ray Kurzwell is more hopeful and implores us not to be so afraid of artificial intelligence, because we should be more scared of such other pressing threats as bioterrorism or nuclear war. Kurzwell even thinks that mental capabilities are, in fact, enhanced by AI, and he thinks that the global rates of violence, war and murder have declined dramatically.
Kurzwell says that AI has, in fact, helped to find cures for diseases,developed renewable energy resources and, cared for the disabled, among other benefits to society. He says that 'human level AI' will be possible at 2029, but he says no reason to get worried as that gives us enough time to 'devise ethical standards'.
Rollo Carpenter, creator of the Cleverbot software, which gained high scores in the Turing test, which means many people have mistaken it for human when communicating with it, is also not afraid of the progress of AI. He believes we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time, and the potential of it to solve many of the world's problems will be realized.
Carpenter says the ability to develop algorithms necessary for achieving full artificial intelligence is still a few decades away, anyway. He explains that we can not quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we don't know if we'll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or be destroyed by it.
Then there's billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, pioneer of digital money and electric cars, has told students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that we are "summoning the demon." He said that our biggest existential threat is artificial intelligence, so he has cautioned everyone to be careful. In a 2015 open letter Musk and Professor Stephen Hawking wrote on the idea that AI could allow development of autonomous weapons which could revolutionize warfare and not for the better. They said that autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. They called for a ban on autonomous weapons and said that starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea.
Hawking also airs the concern that the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of human race. He warns of the possibility and potential dangers of ASI, saying that AI could take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. He says that humans who are limited by slow biological evolution could not compete and would be superseded.
Despite some differences in beliefs, all of them agree that sometime in the next 30 years or so, a supercomputer will replicate the human brain and evolve into super-intelligence or ASI. Tim Urban, blogger, outlines what the future holds: " While most scientists I've come across acknowledge that ASI would have the ability to send humans to extinction, many also believe that when used beneficially, ASI's abilities could be used to bring individual humans, and the species as a whole, to… species immortality."