March 1, 2017 12:05:20 am
While Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking say that unregulated artificial intelligence (AI) could open the door to a technological dystopia, the man who would be the Warren Buffet of technology investment has spoken up for the machines. Delivering the keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Softbank founder Masayoshi Son anticipated a brave new world where computer chips could have an IQ of 10,000. At that point, 30 years away, your shoes could be more intelligent than yourself. That’s fairly dystopian, actually.
Science fiction loves and fears the hardware littering its worlds. Our fascination with labour-saving devices is reflected in machines which slavishly tend to humans. But the possibility of machines replicating and taking control inspires anxiety. And there is dark talk of the singularity — the point at which machine intelligence passeth human understanding, and reality baffles us.
By buying the mobile processor maker ARM for $32 billion, Son has invested in the utopia. But why does he use the language of the dystopia, which suggests that machines will soon be so smart that they could take over the world without humans even understanding what happened? Your shoes cannot be more intelligent than you because you, or a human much like you, must design its circuits and program it to meet human objectives. Which, naturally, do not include being menaced by machines. By way of evidence, Son says that since the human brain has not changed in the last 2,000 years, it necessarily follows that AI will soon outstrip it. Actually, humankind has not evolved biologically in the last 20,000 years, but surged ahead through mental products like politics, culture and technology. AI is only the next big technology. We shall use it, and survive it. And in the meantime, Son will profit handsomely from it.
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