When you think of Artificial Intelligence, you probably imagine the robot uprising of science fiction tales. It is a technology that is feared, however, according to the experts, it is here to stay.
Professor Bjorn Schuller begins by explaining that AI is not what we think it is, or at least not just what we think: intelligent robots. AI already exists in the things we use every day, GPS and search facilities for example. Our smartphones all use it, as do the Siris and Alexas, which are infiltrating homes all over the world. This technology is here already and it is happening regardless of how we feel about it. An entire generation will grow up knowing nothing different to their lives with it. Professor Joanna Bryson points out that the horse has bolted, so there is no need to worry about the barn door. From her perspective, the better metaphor might be about how we can harness the horse, as it becomes clear her biggest concern is losing control of these technologies, and the data they may collect, to large corporations who may misuse it.
There are clearly differing views on the panel as Professor Tony Prescott sees less danger than potential in AI technology - having brought along what can only be described as an AI dog - Elsie. She immediately captures the hearts of the audience who all audibly coo over her, despite the points of the panel that she is not human or real in any way - she is not very different to a computer. This proves that there might be something in the fear that humans could fall in love with AI, which seems less like a sci-fi storyline now. Elsie is a simple AI, not dissimilar to robot pet toys, which make the right sounds and movements when you stroke them in certain ways - just a little more sophisticated.
The biggest concern is whether Elsie, or any other AI, could be smarter than us? Professor Bryson is keen to question what we mean by that, pointing out that computers can beat us at chess and do far more complex calculations instantly. In those respects they are already more intelligent. The real question is, can they be more human? And the answer is no. While some of the 'cleverest' AIs can learn behaviours, with some even learning to drive safely from observation, we have emotional and instinctual aspects to our species, which they will never be able to emulate as it can't be taught. We can't programme them to do what we don't fully understand ourselves.
This is where we can rest assured that the technology is not out of hand. We are still far away from 'Super AI', the technology that can programme itself and is often remarked as the point where we would lose control. Instead, AI seems to have endless possibilities. For example, in how we produce scenarios, which can simulate the future. This has already had a huge impact in the field of climate change and could be applied to other issues such as wealth inequality.
Ultimately though, the concern revolves around how we regulate AI and control it, pertaining to the all-too-frequent call that, as technology changes, Governments must, too. Resistance to AI technologies may be futile, but discussions like these must be had to work out where we stand.