“One day, the AIs are going to look back on us the way we look at fossils and skeletons in the plains of Africa”
-Nathan, Ex Machina
Over the past few decades, popular culture has done its best to tarnish the image of artificial intelligence in the public eye. Films like Terminator, Ex Machina, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and others depict a darker side of robots and artificial intelligence that casts a negative shadow on them. It would make sense that the race to produce true AI might slow with all of this media teetering between horror and sci-fi on the subject of AI circling the globe. But yet, the acceleration of the field has only increased.
A great deal of people find AI somewhat unsettling, and rightfully so. The idea that something can get so close to being a human, but only consist of wires, metal and code, is a disturbing thought. Super computers have the ability to recall and analyze more data and gather information faster than any one human could. Robots, depending on the purpose they serve, can be hundreds of times as strong as a human. Combine the two in one creation, along with the ability to learn and think for itself, and just the thought of what it might be capable of is terrifying.
Despite all of this, though, the field of AI continues to grow, with new advances being made all the time. However, we are still in the early stages of developing artificial intelligence, and the invention of anything seen in a movie like Ex Machina is still likely decades away. Adam Coates, director of the Baidu Research Silicon Valley AI Lab, believes this to be so: “I think that sometimes we get carried away and think about ‘sentient machines’ that are going to understand everything the way we do and totally interact with us. These things are pretty far away… A lot of the scare mongering of AI taking over the world or getting out of our control are a little bit overwrought.” Much of the fear surrounding AI comes from overestimating the advancement and power of this technology and conjuring up mainly overhyped ideas of the eventual implications it will have on the human race.
The mainstream media and popular culture have painted artificial intelligence as a force that will eventually harm humans, or even be the ultimate demise of humanity as a whole. It has an almost apocalyptic stigma attached to it that leaves the public to wonder not what the potential benefits and positive implications AI can have are, but whether the finished product will be deadly or not. Experts who research, work with, and use it on a day to day basis agree that the overwhelming majority of fears and apprehensions people have about AI and where it is headed are largely unfounded. So should we be afraid of AI? CGI movies say yes, but scientists say no.