By Assad Bhuglah

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Human intellect has propelled mankind to Earthly domination. Driven by an insatiable curiosity, our intellect has led us, and still leads us, to question, wonder, explore, build, conquer, subdue, respect and hold in awe the existence in which we reside. Human intellect enables Mankind to discover new things about the world around and to create new ways to accomplish what human beings need and want. Out of necessity, human beings have developed languages and symbols; synchronized dates, time and yearly calendar with the movement of earth; built homes, cities and infrastructure; invented locomotives, vessels and crafts to speed up travel on land, sea and space; designed and manufactured machines, home appliances and sophisticated devices to relieve human beings from arduous tasks; enhanced the comfort of mankind and quality of life by harnessing electricity, natural gas, power-energy and managing water, sewage and communication systems; conceived and constructed sophisticated and precise instruments with which mankind is able to study the world, the planets, the moons and asteroids at the level of the atom and its particles and inspect human body to peer deep into tissues and cells to decipher the human genome. Evidently, much of the leaps and bounds in the advancement of human civilisation would not have happened without relying on artificial intelligence: the capability of machines to imitate intelligent human behavior.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: Speech recognition, Perception, Facial Recognition, Learning, Reasoning, Planning, Problem solving and Ability to manipulate and move objects and also to pick out and respond to patterns in large amounts of data. Artificial intelligence is also being used to analyze vast amounts of molecular information looking for potential new drug candidates – a process that would take humans too long to be worth doing. Indeed, machine learning could soon be indispensable to healthcare, diagnosing conditions such as eye disease and cancer from medical scans. Artificial intelligence can also help us manage highly complex systems such as global shipping networks, to plan and coordinate the movement of a resource in mining industry, such as iron ore, from initial transport on huge driverless mine trucks, to the freight trains that take the ore to port or assisting with ground and air traffic control.

Artificial Intelligence can effectively compete and challenge human intelligence. ‘Machine learning’ is a marvelous product of human intellect that has made robots to effectively and accurately learn the universe and human body based on the observed algorithmic data and results directly from the nature. The ability to measure and study the humans and universe accurately and responding back precisely to balance the systems is indeed a great achievement, but at the same time the very same intelligence will start to act and think like humans – sometimes even more wiser.

Artificial Intelligence is most of the time portrayed as robots with human-like characteristics.  It can encompass anything from Google’s search algorithms to IBM’s Watson to autonomous weapons. Artificial intelligence today is properly known as narrow AI (or weak AI), in that it is designed to perform a narrow task (e.g. only facial recognition or only internet searches or only self-driving car). However, the long-term goal of many researchers is to create a strong AI. While narrow AI may outperform humans at whatever its specific task is, like playing chess or solving equations, a strong AI would outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task. In the near term, the impact of Artificial Intelligence on society proves to be beneficial in many areas, from economics and law to technical topics such as verification, validity, security and control. It becomes all the more important that an AI system does what you want it to do, for example it controls your car, your airplane, your pacemaker, your automated trading system or your power grid.  

In the long term, the development of a stronger Artificial Intelligence can trigger an intelligence explosion leaving human intellect far behind. The important question is what will happen if the quest for strong AI succeeds and an AI system becomes better than humans at all cognitive task. While some experts believe that the creation of super intelligent AI is guaranteed to be beneficial, others have expressed concern that, unless we learn to align the goals of the AI with ours before it becomes super intelligent, there is the potential risks for an artificial intelligence system to intentionally or unintentionally cause great harm.  More research will be required to help society to better prepare for and prevent such potentially negative consequences in the future, thus enjoying the benefits of AI while avoiding pitfalls.

The fundamental distinction between human intellect and Artificial intelligence is that the latter does not exhibit human emotions like love or hate, and that there is no reason to expect Artificial Intelligence to become intentionally benevolent or malevolent. Artificial Intelligence has enormous potential for being a commercial product which can be easily acquired by wealthy but brainless idiots or maverick political leaders with bigoted intention of revenge.  For example, autonomous weapons are artificial intelligence systems that are programmed to kill. In the hands of the wrong person, these weapons could easily cause mass casualties because they have been designed in such a way that it would be difficult to ‘turn off’ when the original owner is totally out of control of the system.  Another example could be, if a super intelligent system is tasked with an ambitious geoengineering project, it might wreak havoc with the ecosystem as a side effect, and view human attempts to stop it as a threat to be met.

Because AI has the potential to become more intelligent than any human, we have no surefire way of predicting how it will behave. So far, people has been able to control the planet, not because they are the strongest, fastest or biggest, but because of being the smartest. There is a danger if Artificial Intelligence becomes smarter than human minds. The civilization will flourish as long as human minds win the race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which they manage it.

There is enormous engagement of the global software industry in the areas of Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience. These are technological giants who sell directly to the consumers infatuated with technology more than anything else.  One has to be worried about the consequences of their collective effort on human rights! Given the pace of the industry’s engagement, there is an immediate need for Bio-signal interface technical standards to be developed and established. These standards would serve as instruments to preserve the simple fact upon which every justice system in the world has been built viz., the brain and nervous system of an individual belongs to an individual and is not to be accessed by other individuals or machines without stated consent for stated purposes.

The expansion of artificial intelligence is inevitable and this will largely influence the rise and fall of civilizations. No matter how far and how deep the artificial intelligence will spread, the most fundamental axle in the existential equation is that Mankind must never lose its status of Asraf-ul-Makhluqat, the noblest of all creations.