At Ease With AI

Illustration by Borja Bonaque   In the October 2015 issue of INTELLIGENCE, we explored how human-machine interfaces like Pepper, Mizuho Bank’s 4-foot-tall robot, interact with patrons. She is one of the first examples of a robot that has successfully created emotional connections with humans. The Vice President and General Manager of Flex’s Innovation Lab, Greg McNeil, told us, “People want more intuitive user interfaces, and technology has changed to allow us to interact differently from how we have in the past.” Apple’s Siri was among the first of a slew of virtual personal assistants, and she’s only now gotten good at “listening” in the background without our having to push a button. As artificial intelligence the likes of “Samantha” in Spike Jonze’s futuristic film Her start to present themselves in real life, will users be ready to embrace this level of intelligence intervening in their everyday lives?


 Elon Musk CEO of Tesla; CEO and CTO of SpaceX Twitter, August 3, 2014

“Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.”


  Mike Schroepfer CTO of Facebook Re/code story, November 3, 2015

“[Facebook’s M is] primarily powered by people. But those people are effectively backed up by AIs. The idea here is, you can ask it any question, not just the set of questions that it’s capable of. The thing that’s cool about this is it gives us a much wider training set, like what are the things people actually want it to help them [with]."


  Norman Winarksy Cofounder of Siri and Advisor to SRI Ventures Harvard Business Review, September 2015

“Speech and natural-language recognition and machine learning are still in their infancy. New virtual personal assistants will be even better at word and language understanding. They will maintain context, enable true conversations, learn from their users, and become ‘specialists’ helping consumers access information such as health records and bank accounts.”


  Ray Kurzweil Author, Inventor, and Director of Engineering at Google Singularity University’s Exponential Finance conference, June 3, 2015

“We will let them listen in on our conversations: verbal, written, they’ll watch everything we’re reading and writing and saying and hearing....It will be like an assistant that helps you through the day, will answer your questions before you ask them, or even before you realize you have a question....That’s where we’re headed. But then a comment on that is it’s not an alien invasion of these intelligent machines to displace us, we will use them to make ourselves smarter, which is what we do today.”


  Stephen Hawking Theoretical Physicist and Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge Reddit Ask Me Anything, July 27, 2015

“It’s likely to be either the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity, so there’s huge value in getting it right. We should shift the goal of AI from creating pure undirected artificial intelligence to creating beneficial intelligence. It might take decades to figure out how to do this, so let’s start researching this today rather than the night before the first strong AI is switched on.”