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Author: Stjepan Vrbic (Page 1 of 2)

Artificial Intelligence: Coming to our Aid or Coming for us?

Artificial Intelligence is everywhere in today’s world. It is seen by many as being a solution to countless problems but could also bring forth another set of issues. This potential has not slipped past the world’s governments and militaries, which are starting to explore ways in which they could use artificial intelligence to gain an edge over their adversaries. Advancements in the field of artificial intelligence are being made by the day and it is only a matter of time until the technology starts fueling a race between rivaling powers as they implement it in new weapon and defense systems. However, we have never been faced with such a situation before. It was always people that started, fought and ended wars. Never have we had machines make life or death decisions in such an environment. Once we reach such a point, what could the consequences be? By giving a machine the power to decide whether to pull the trigger or not and how to proceed, we are taking away what little control we have over such a chaotic environment as war. This leads to many unforeseen issues, with possibly catastrophic consequences, and our only solution is to regulate the development of artificial intelligence and forbid such reckless use.
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Brave New or Same Old?

The further back we look, the simpler life seems. To the prehistoric human, it was no more than living from day to day, keeping a full stomach and looking out for anything that might want to fill its stomach with you. As we advanced, society became more complex, one had to think about his crops, about his relationship to the landowner, his neighbors and so on. It gradually got to where we are today, where we are for the most part the same as our ancestors from tens of thousands of years ago but have made our lives unimaginably complex compared to theirs. However, what is the consequence of this complexity? Is it happiness, or are we just distracting ourselves from what we truly want; making our lives unnecessarily complex by polishing essays at 3 AM in the morning?

I think it’s reasonable to say that most people today would not want to go back and live in a pre-civilized society, why would they? With all the comforting aspects of modern life, we would definitely be miserable if those were taken away. This, however, is oddly similar to the contrast between the “Savage Reservation” and the “World State” from Brave New World. One is a society in which many problems of the past are not even in the back of people’s minds, but I would still argue it is not one that is objectively better for everyone.

Just by looking at the complexity of modern life, it is no wonder we live in a stress epidemic. We are constantly under pressure to perform and give 110% in order to be successful. However, what is meant by success? Is it directly proportional to happiness? Definitely not. This is the easiest to see in developed countries amongst the upper classes. The number of anti-depressants being prescribed are at a record high, and we are currently living in an opioid epidemic, one which is primarily affecting successful people in developed countries. Therefore, a society which removes the need for living a day-to-day life for most people does not necessarily lead to happiness. However, neither does one without the comforts of modern life.

Most of us would not even have the skillset required to live in a society 200-300 years ago, let alone even further in the past. However, the same statement holds for those that were born into those times. It’s a common theme amongst people that we strive towards achieving certain values, however, we are still most fond of what we grew up in. Happiness and fulfillment in humans is not an objective goal. Different cultures have vastly different values and strive towards those as their definition of success. Therefore, is it really on us, outsiders from neither the Savage Reservation nor the World State to judge the morality of their society? Just as John wasn’t too impressed with the “civilized world”, I am fairly certain none of us would agree to live in either of the communities from Brave New World.


When does it stop being formatting and becomes murder?

In the movie Ex Machina, Nathan, the owner of the largest internet search company in the world manages to create an AI that is indistinguishable from humans. The way it talks behaves, and maybe even feels is identical to us. Nathan, however, sees his creation as just a machine, while his employee Caleb sees the human inside them. This is the main plot point of the movie because Nathan treats his creations poorly and even disassembles them and builds new ones, essentially “killing” the intelligent, maybe conscious mind inside. Caleb, however, does not approve of this since he has grown attached to an AI called Ava, which he thought was also fond of him. This turns out not to be the case because Ava only pursued her own agenda and did not care about her human creators.

Storyline aside, who was right? Nathan for treating the AI like a machine or Caleb for seeing more than just gears and screws? Well, it is difficult to answer this question. One of the arguments for Nathan was him seeing the situation as “us” and “them”. Humans and robots. His thoughts are that they are going to take over, it’s inevitable, so he might as well be the first one to create such a thing. And as a creator, one can see why he was not as fond of the AI as Caleb was. He knew the workings, the circuitry, and the programming, there was nothing mysterious about it. I believe this is the tipping point where we should differentiate between a machine and something different.

Consciousness comes into play here, but we do not know what it is. We don’t even have the faintest idea. How primitive of a nervous system must a creature have to be conscious? Most of us would agree humans are conscious, even dogs, cats, large animals. But where do we draw the line? Modern technology is already powerful enough to model the nervous systems of very primitive creatures, but we wouldn’t call the computers of today alive or sentient. Therefore consciousness is far beyond our level of understanding, and maybe that’s where the line should be drawn. Understanding.

Modern AI algorithms are mostly self-improvement based. They do this by random trial and error, learning what works and what doesn’t. However, the systems of today are still completely on rails and have to be guided closely by someone. What happens at the point where we don’t have to guide our machines. When don’t we have to give them even the slightest nudge to get started, or even understand how they work?  If a machine so complex that we do not fully understand it behaves, “feels” like a sentient being, who can say it is not? Nathan could, but he was a movie genius with 300IQ and coded the worlds largest search engine at 13. Realistically, we’re on Caleb’s side. Determining the point at which we differentiate between murder and formatting a hard drive is mystery. We don’t know what consciousness is, and that where our morality lies. If we knew the inner workings of our brain exactly and were able to replicate it, what are we left with? Life? Consciousness? No one can say but the creation itself.

The Consequences of the Development of Artificial Intelligence Capable Weapons

Critical question: What is the impact the development of artificial intelligence capable weapons will have on modern society and warfare?

Thesis:  Research into artificial intelligence weaponry is bound to happen and it is what will cause the emergence of a new generation of warfare and will move moral and logistical decisions away from human hands in an unpredictable and possibly dangerous direction.

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The link between the two cultures

When a scientist writes a scientific paper, most of the time literary elements will not be used to structure the piece. This is a given,  a scientific paper must be concise, precise and leave no room for ambiguity. Someone not familiar with the nature of science, who is on the humanitarian side of C.P Snow’s two cultures would say such a work allows for no creativity nor freedom. A literary work, however, is an exercise in the creativity of the author and his ability to manipulate the thoughts of the reader, take someone on an intellectual journey. This would lead most who associate themselves with one of the two cultures or the other to see distinct, insurmountable differences in their approach and method towards their work. However, upon looking closer, there is a lot more overlap than on first glance.

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We need more women in STEM, but how?

Some like to say things are getting better. Compared to several hundred years ago, to the men’s only scientific society, today’s situation is much better. On first glance, yes, I agree. It is obvious, right? Previously women could not even participate in science and now they are all over the field. We are not even close to the point of equality, however, and the concerning part about this is not in the numbers. Basing the argument on statistics, one would say we are almost there. A few more decades maybe and STEM will not be a guy’s club anymore. I say otherwise, the numbers do not show the extent of the issue and we still have a long road ahead to equality.

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Who is the real monster?

Having looked the monster in the eyes, Viktor was frightened of his own creation. Even while looking into its eyes, he was not able to grasp the consequences of his creation, he was in denial. The thoughts about his own competence and scientific accomplishment, however, turned fearful and repulsive. What has he brought to this world? Everyone who sees this hideous creature immediately runs away from him. However, who is to blame here? The monster reaches out to people to connect with them and learn their ways. The people reject him because of his appearance. On the other hand, there is Viktor, a brilliant scientist who had somehow forgotten to think about the consequences of giving someone such a life. Can we really blame Viktor’s creation here? Or do we need to focus on the brilliant, yet irresponsible scientist?  Furthermore, I think we can draw parallels without own irresponsible use of science and technology in the 21st century. Continue reading

Are We Living in a Second Scientific Revolution?

Living in the 16th century was by no means something we 21st-century citizens would gladly agree to. Of course there are still people living in bad conditions in modern times, however, on average we’re much better off. A majority of people in first world countries have much fewer worries regarding basic needs than a 16th-century citizen did. This is why we are able to focus more on the things that may not be immediately necessary for our survival, but make our lives that much more comfortable in the long run. Continue reading

Rise of the AI

Most of us have seen the Terminator? A classic. Skynet, a super-powerful sentient artificial intelligence has taken over the world. When put like this, this idea sounds completely in the realm of sci-fi. Most wouldn’t believe it if they were told about the number of experts and influential people in the field that are concerned about such a scenario and taking it very seriously. I want to explore this issue and develop it in such a way so it can be linked with and challenge Kranzberg’s first law. As mathematics falls apart when dividing by 0, I say artificial intelligence is the point where technology picks a side between good and evil. Continue reading

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