So many films and TV shows have theorised about the future of AI, in both I, Robot and Humans, they are the future manual labourers and assistants, doing the jobs that humans would rather not. In some ways this is a reflection of reality, many factory jobs have been given to robots that are faster and cheaper than human labour and with the increase in development what does this mean for the future of those in low to mid-range jobs? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, states there are several levels of needs that humans need to be a happy.
Perhaps with a robot labour force it will be easier to fulfil these. Perhaps it will give people more time and in turn the space and time to work on the higher needs, needed to achieve fulfilment. But on the flip side it could threaten the very basic of needs by depriving people of the jobs needed to secure those base physiological needs.
Some have argued that a universal income is the way to combat this and many other socio-economic problems. In an interview with the BBC Stephen Hawking says that AI “would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate” suggesting that perhaps AI would exceed human control and management. Maybe the robot overlords of The Matrix and Terminator will become a reality for those in the future.
Sam Harris has similar reservations about AI, in his TED talk below, he warns of the dangers of not examining the threats posed by the growing development of AI. He further reinforces the point that although AI has many potential benefits for humanity, it could also lead to a wider gap between the rich and the poor. With many left jobless because of the robotic labourers.
Hanson Robotics is a technology company based in Hong Kong, that as the name suggests builds robots. They first took to the global stage last year with this video interview with CNBC.
In the video we meet one of their creations called Sophia, she has ‘skin’, blinks, pulls funny faces and even has (or fakes) wants and desires “In the future I hope to do things such as go to school, study, make art, start a business. Even have my own home and family”. Sophia, is one of the closest examples of General Purpose AI’s that resembles the machines in science fiction media. Her quote, leads into the question of how will these autonomous machines be treated, will they be given rights? What if they commit crimes how will they be punished? Hanson Robotics takes an idealistic view of the future and imagines that we will become partners with the robots, and on their website they say that their robots will aide us to “solve the most challenging problems we face here in the world”
Although it is important to distinguish that Sophia isn’t fully there yet, as a general purpose AI. She currently exhibits more of the machine learning style, that involves her constantly learning from new interactions with humans but she never truly creates an independent thought or idea. She presents the question of, how will the future sentient AI be treated? Will they have rights? Will they be punished for crimes or will their creators take responsibility?