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Are we on the verge of an AI takeover?

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Earlier this year, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence should be something we must be careful of. This sentiment was echoed across several technological and IT sectors by various personalities such as Elon Musk, but the message doesn’t seem to have propagated far. The rise of machines, or the potential for AI to take over the world, has had its fair share of interest in popular culture and science fiction media. But is there any truth behind it?

In itself, AI takeover is essentially a hypothetical scenario whereby AI becomes the dominant form of intelligence on Earth, and effectively uses its intelligence to take control of our planet. The premise isn’t that much of a stretch, as recent forays into AI has shown that computers are capable of learning on the fly and assimilating information at a rate we are nowhere near achieving. In real life, Artificial Intelligence applications have been routinely shut down after short periods of activity due to what has been described as “malfunctions” or “misbehaviour”, with the latest example being Facebook’s chat AI, which reportedly failed in tests.

Whilst this sounds like we are far from being controlled by new robot overlords, or exposed to an AI takeover, there are many who are still unconvinced that it isn’t a possibility in the near future. In fact, we could be seeing a different type of AI takeover, one that has been happening over the past century that has been benefiting us more than pulling us down. As technology improves, the automation of the economy and several manufacturing sectors has been slowly happening ever since the first machines were put in place.

Fantasy version of future AI Robot
Fantasy; future AI Robot

Of course, this has led to steady job loss as human workers become obsolete, angering many and putting credence in the belief that robots are continuing to encroach on human activities – however little that may be.  Additionally, the prevalence of smart phones and computer software in our lives has led to a continued presence of AI, which has been shown to record our data, create a dependence and change the way we think and interact with AI.

It is this aspect, coupled with the hypothesis of AI takeover that worries those who are looking out for potential signs. Although it seems as though it is a far-fetched idea, the comments made by Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk should add some weight to the argument that humans should be more careful when implementing AI.

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