Fear of Arnold Schwarzenegger could be holding back AI development

The idea of super-intelligent AI turning on its human creators has been a popular fictional trope for a long time, with examples including blockbuster films like The Terminator. However a researcher, has argued that our fear of this happening in the real world is holding back the advancement of beneficial AI technology. 

Anthony J. Bradley, the vice president of Gartner AI Research made the argument earlier this week  in an intriguing blog post. In it he claims he’s asked regularly about the potentially damaging future of artificial intelligence and told about how “scary” it is.

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In turn, he added that the technology is only scary because our expectations are based on popular fiction. like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator persona. According to Bradley this AGI (artificial general intelligence) is currently nothing like the type of AI tech actually being developed. Bradley said bluntly: “Just because we can imagine machines behaving like humans doesn’t mean it will ever happen.”

The closest we’ve reportedly come to this form of AI are select, very specific user cases, which he describes as ASI (artificial specific intelligence). One famous incident saw ASI AlphaGo beat 18-time world champion Lee Sedol at a game of the ancient Chinese board game, Go. AlphaGo was developed in London, by Google DeepMind, specifically to play Go.

Bradley says the important detail that people disregard, when speculating about AI development, is that AI simply doesn’t have any of the dynamism of a human mind.

He explained: “AlphaGo is similar to the cotton gin in that it was built for one specific job. It can play the game of Go under a very strict set of rules.

“I heard one ML expert clearly articulate this specificity with the following, ‘If you made a small change to the Go rules like altering the shape of the board, the AlphaGo program would be lost.’ It would no longer be able to play. However, any human who knows how to play Go could still play the game after changing the shape of the board from a square to a circle or a diamond.”

This simple explanation reminds us that even one of the world’s most advanced AI systems can be bamboozled by the simplest change of circumstance. As a result, Bradley says people need to set aside their fear of AI, (or AGI, to be specific,) and embrace what it can for us as a technology.

That message is inherently less interesting and fun than saying: “The Terminator films are basically going to happen. Just give it a couple of years”, but he could have a point… Let us know if you agree on Twitter.

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