How AI Challenges Humanity

AI will change every aspect of human life. While this naturally creates many challenges, the science-fiction-general-AI-scenario will not be humanity’s first test. This series looks into the many aspects of AI we now have to get right.

Articles in the Series

Everybody nowadays seems to agree that artificial intelligence (AI) will be and already is becoming a great challenge for humanity. While the science-fiction-like General AI is obviously scary this series of essays will argue that the path to General AI (human-like problem solving capabilities) is yet uncertain and before reaching it, the more immediate threats come from Narrow AI.

Why does this distinction even matter? A mechanical metaphor would be tools vs machines. Tools are typically only useful to a person who uses the tool for a specific task. A machine can work without human interaction. The metaphor isn't perfect but it gets one point across: Narrow AI is built for single tasks. A general AI would be a generic problem solver coming up with novel solutions.

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Narrow AI

Narrow AI accomplishes a specific task: Classifying images, detecting spam, translating text, even steering a car. The algorithms performing these tasks vary in complexity but they all have in common that they are purpose-built by people and can never do anything other than what they were programmed and trained to do. Other names include Weak AI and Applied AI. This is the AI we can already use today in a myriad of products.

General AI

General AI on the other hand should be able to perform any intellectual tasks that humans can do. General AI will probably exhibit some form of consciousness. Other words for it are Strong AI, Artificial General Intelligence or Full AI. This form of AI does not exist today and depending on who you ask might never come into being or is at least a few decades away. As of 2018 there is no consensus on which path will lead to General AI and researchers even argue whether the nowadays ubiquitous neural network is general enough to be useful in General AI.

As there is so much uncertainty around General AI, the main part of this series focuses on Narrow AI. We’ll look at threats and opportunities of Narrow AI in different areas.

Let's jump right into it. Read the first part about the future of jobs.

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