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Experts warn of AI disasters leading to research lockdown

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Experts from around the world have warned of potential AI disasters that could lead to a subsequent lockdown of research.

Andrew Moore, the new head of AI at Google Cloud, is one such expert who has warned of scenarios that would lead to public backlash and restrictions that would prevent AI from reaching its full potential.

Back in November, Moore spoke at the Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Initiative. In his keynote, he said:

“If an AI disaster happens – and that would, for instance, be an autonomous car killing people due to serious bugs – then at some point AI systems are going to be locked down for development, at least in the US.

There are some even more horrible scenarios — which I don’t want to talk about on the stage, which we’re really worried about — that will cause the complete lockdown of robotics research.”

Autonomous vehicles have indeed already been involved with accidents.

Back in March, just four months after Moore’s warning, an Uber self-driving vehicle caused a fatality. The subsequent investigation found Elaine Herzberg and her bicycle were acknowledged by the car’s sensors but then flagged as a ‘false positive’ and dismissed.

Following years of sci-fi movies featuring out-of-control AI robots, it’s unsurprising the public are on edge about the pace of recent developments. There’s a lot of responsibility on researchers to conduct their work safely and ethically.

Professor Jim al-Khalili, the incoming president of the British Science Association, told the Financial Times:

“It is quite staggering to consider that until a few years ago AI was not taken seriously, even by AI researchers.

We are now seeing an unprecedented level of interest, investment and technological progress in the field, which many people, including myself, feel is happening too fast.”

In the race between world powers to become AI leaders, many fear it will lead to rushed and dangerous results. This is of particular concern with regards to AI militarisation.

Many researchers believe AI should not be used for military purposes. Several Google employees recently left the company over its contract with the Pentagon to develop recognition software for its drones.

Over 4,000 other employees signed a petition demanding that Google’s management cease the project and promise to never again ‘build warfare technology.’

Google has since made the decision not to renew its Pentagon contract when it expires. However, it’s already caused ripples across Silicon Valley with many employees for companies such as Microsoft and Amazon demanding not to be involved with military contracts.

Much like the development of nuclear weapons, however, AI being developed for military purposes seems inevitable and there will always be players willing to step in. Last month, AI News reported Booz Allen secured an $885 million Pentagon AI contract.

From a military standpoint, maintaining similar capabilities as a potential adversary is necessary. Back in July, China announced plans to upgrade its naval power with unmanned AI submarines that provide an edge over the fleets of their global counterparts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, recently said: “[AI] comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Few dispute that AI will have a huge impact on the world, but the debate rages on about whether it will be primarily good or bad. Beyond the potential dangers of rogue AIs, there’s also the argument over the impact on jobs.

Al-Khalili wants to see AI added to school curriculums – as well as public information programmes launched – to educate good practices, prepare the workforce, and reduce fears created by sci-fi.

What are your thoughts on AI fears? Let us know in the comments.

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