Elon Musk is one of the world’s most prominent doom-mongers and fears the rise of artificial intelligence poses a grave risk to the future of humanity.
But a leading AI researcher at one of China’s top tech firms has said that fears about the rise of ‘digital super-intelligence’ are premature.
Dr Feiyu Xu, vice president and head of the AI Laboratory at Lenovo, spoke to a select group of journalists last week who were the first foreign reporters to be welcomed into the tech giant’s innovation and research centre in Beijing.
Elon has previously warned that AI could become an ‘immortal dictator from which we could never escape’.
He also said it was a ‘a fundamental existential risk for human civilisation’ and claimed it was more dangerous than nuclear weapons.
We asked Xu if she agreed with Elon Musk and she told us that the arrival of a super-smart machine mind is a long way away.
‘Let me put it this way: I have worked in AI for almost 30 years and experienced the ups and downs as well as a lot of promise, a lot of expectation,’ she said.
‘I think we are in a very good period of AI right now because of deep learning and big data technology.
‘But we are far away from human intelligence. I only have to admit I don’t know how our brain works and I don’t how we can simulate how our skin feels.
‘Our robots are still plastic and metal.’
If we’re nowhere near to building a computer that’s as clever as a human, then we are a long way from creating a computer with god-level intellect, she continued.
However, even relatively stupid AI is having a huge effect on the world, so ‘strong AI’ is likely to make profound changes to human society.
‘Even if we have this dream, we are still far away from the super intelligence,’ Xu added.
‘Of course, whether super-intelligence will change our society is clear.
‘Even today, AI has changed society – even with modest technology and achievement.’
Lenovo is leading the way in AI research and is working to embed intelligence in smart devices which will be used in homes, workplaces and industry.
Torod Neptune, chief communications officer, told Metro his firm would work hard to emphasise the positive benefits of artificial intelligence and said: ‘Some of the emerging technology today is creating challenges.
‘I think we are at an inflection point and there are significant examples of brands we all know that are wrestling with [the question of] whether the technology they are creating is ultimately doing a good or a harm.
‘That certainly is underpinning our aspirations to figure out on the positive side of things and ask what could we do to address some of these challenges.
‘I think we all feel it and read it every day: there is a challenge for innovators to be clear about the possible role for technology in society.’
Elon Musk looked significantly less optimistic last year when he blazed a huge joint and sadly recounted his ‘futile’ bid to save humanity from the rise of artificial intelligence.
The much-loved billionaire appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience, where he shared a gigantic spliff with his host, swigged whisky and sadly recounted his attempts to make sure our species survived the rise of the machines.
Musk is one of the world’s most prominent critics of the out-of-control development of AI and believes it poses an existential threat to humankind.
But he seemed downcast and depressed while recalling his attempts to raise the alarm about the development of computers that are smarter than humanity.
‘I tried to convince people to slow down AI, to regulate AI, but this was futile,’ Musk said.
‘I tried for years. Nobody listened.’
Elon said he met Barack Obama to warn him to ‘watch out’. But although the former president ‘certainly listened’, no concrete action was taken.
He also met with 50 US governors and ‘talked to everyone I could’.
‘No-one seemed to realise where this is going,’ he said.
To illustrate the dangers, Musk discussed the automotive industry’s fight against seatbelts.
‘Normally, the way regulations work is very slow indeed,’ Musk said.
‘Usually, a new technology will cause damage of death, there will be an outcry, an investigation and years will pass… leading eventually to regulation.’
He continued: ‘The automotive industry successfully fought regulations for more than a decade, even though the numbers were extremely obvious. If you had a seatbelt you would be far less likely to die or be seriously injured.
‘Eventually, after many many people died, regulators insisted on seatbelts.
‘This time frame is not relevant to AI. You can’t take 10 years from the point at which it’s dangerous: it’s too late.’
He said there was no way of knowing how AI would develop after ‘the singularity’, which is the point at which a computer achieves super-intelligence and begins outstripping humanity’s intellect.
‘It could be terrible and it could be great,’ Musk added.
‘It’s not clear.
‘One thing is for sure: we will not control it.’
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