Does Megatron Make You Fearful?

Personally, I blame the Jetsons. For years they showed us how much fun it would be to zip around in flying cars, get dressed on a conveyer belt and have Rosie the Robot swiftly clean the house and care for the kids at the same time. It’s more than likely that the first time you fell in love with — or learned to fear — artificial intelligence, was via pop culture, whether that be in movies, TV or comics. And depending on your age, you were probably afraid of HAL, Megatron or the dreaded Stepford Wives, and yet enthralled by Hymie, R2-D2, KITT, Bender or Data — perhaps all of them. The point is, for many people in 2017, artificial intelligence still means T-X or WALL-E, and as ROSS’s own Andrew Arruda can attest, “when I walk into a room of professionals to present our AI technology, people look behind me to see if a robot is walking in as well.”

On March 28th, billionaire tech guru Elon Musk announced that his new venture Neuralink was going to merge human brains with computers, which is already scary to most folks, but he also plans on developing brain implants that “may one day be powerful enough to put humanity on a more even footing with future superintelligent computers.” (huff.to/2ngBBFW) It is no secret that Musk is afraid Terminator-like beings will rule us humans and he has donated many millions, in OpenAI and elsewhere, to “fight” for us to maintain control over AI. In his words, “I don’t know a lot of people who love the idea of living under a despot.” (bit.ly/1NDwXd1) This hysteria over AI and technology is not limited to eccentric billionaires. It is nicely summed up by this 2015 headline in The Atlantic: “Americans Are More Afraid of Robots than Death.” (theatln.tc/2o1Mikj).

“We are forever grappling with changes in our history that are utterly transformative. This moment we are in is one of those — perhaps the greatest of all transformations.”

Colin Williams, a professor, scientific adviser and futurologist spoke to ROSS via email and says: “Our societies will collapse if we do not fully enable and embrace the development of ever more capable tools to transform, enhance and enrich our relationships with information. We are necessarily locked in to a mutually transformative relationship with computers, and we were from the moment they were first conceived.”

So just why are we so afraid of artificial intelligence and evolving technology in general? “Sometimes we see the world in a very monochrome, binary way… technology is seen as good. But advanced, sentient machines that can feel, think and mimic human behaviour and thus one day rise up and take control of society is bad,” Williams explained to The Telegraph. “How on earth do we reach such conclusions? Because we fear change. We’re naturally suspicious of advances, especially in science.” (bit.ly/1YordLE)

Regardless of how sophisticated we think we are nowadays, with our super smart phones and our talking Alexas, in the end, many of us are reacting to revolutionary technologies exactly the same way our ancestors reacted to TV, telephones and trains, the last of which people believed travelled too fast for our bodies to handle. And so today it is robots and AI. They will steal your job, boss you around, go rogue, and a whole lot of related anxieties and fears. The truth is, AI has been making your life easier for a very long time. Siri, customer support, fraud detection, Spotify, Netflix and innumerable other ways AI sorts out what suits you best and offers you advice on what’s next — all practical, helpful stuff. OK so AI isn’t putting your children to bed like Rosie, but it’s not locking you in a room like HAL either.

Said Williams in The Telegraph: “We are forever grappling with changes in our history that are utterly transformative. This moment we are in is one of those — perhaps the greatest of all transformations. It’s thrilling to be alive now, to see these extraordinary changes, to be so interconnected with each other and yet also interdependent, liberated by technology…I believe we need to see technology through a different lens. We need to embrace its ability to bestow upon us a sense of enlightenment and engagement.”

Let AI make your life easier, contact ROSS today.

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