Artificial Intelligence part 3

Last week a student asked: “What will happen to people if Artificial Intelligence controls everything? Since this is an interesting topic so I allowed the class to have a lengthy discussion without getting to any conclusion.

I told my students: “Today Artificial Intelligence (AI) already impacts many things. Companies are investing billions of dollars into AI research and the progress is rapidly changing many things, even to the scientists who are working on it. For example, financial and stock trading companies are using AI to beat the stock market and most do very well, some trading companies are replacing people with robots. I warned students: “Since you know about AI. Do not play the stock market, you cannot beat robots that can trade stocks better and faster.” For the past few years, Google was using AI to improve its search engines more quickly and accurately, and Amazon was also using AI to help customers buying things faster online. That is why these two companies are doing so well and beat other competitors. Today there are hundreds of AI algorithms, each specializing in a complex task but soon there will be more as machines can learn more thing and “program itself” to do things without programmers. The ultimate goal of AI is every machine can learn by itself and do better than humans. Some scientists believe it would take 20 to 30 years for AI to get to that point but it worries a lot of people.”

Many economists have warned that AI will take jobs away from people, millions of jobs such as truck drivers, Taxi drivers, Factory workers, Salespersons, Receptionists and Secretary etc. will be gone in the next few years. They asked: “What will happen when millions of people are unemployed? A typical scenario is the whole world could turn upside down where chaos happens first in developing countries and wars could spread all over the world. Another scenario is the machine will get smarter and destroy people as in some science fiction movies. Several scientists have signed a petition asking companies and the government to stop research on AI because if the world is taken over by robots that would be bad for all human. Both Bill Gates and Elon Musk have repeatedly warned about AIs that could destroy the whole planet in a matter of a few seconds.

As we continue to discuss the subject of AI in class, students began to worry about possibilities. It seemed as these “smart machines” could turn the whole world upside down and even end the human race. A student asked: “Do you think we can stop it?” But another student argued: “Some countries may stop it but others may not, so the research will continue.” A student added: “There are benefits of using AI, some companies will use AI if there is profit for them even they know the dangerous consequences.” I told the class: “This is an issue, some people will look at their own benefits but not at the broader consequence. It is all about greed and ignorance. People create technology but some do not think further on what technology could be used for. Like many things, the technology could help people but it could hurt people too. We all go to school to get educated and what does an educated person do? To get a job? To develop new technology? To get rich? To be famous? To help others? It is our choice and how we act, how we behave then we could make the world better or worse, it is up to us.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University