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The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: PBS Off Book

by Kenny Hoeschen

PBS’s Off Book series examines artificial intelligence and what it means for humans as AI systems continue to evolve. Ernest Davis of the Department of Computer Science, NYU, Yann LeCann of the Center for Data Science, NYU, Robin Hanson of the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford and Gary Marcus of the Department of Psychology, NYU weigh in on various aspects of AI.

First, we must determine what is meant by “artificial intelligence.” A “strong AI” system is equal to people in all respects, including having consciousness of some sort. But, it’s difficult to build intelligence into machines and the best approach today is to build systems that are able to learn similar to how humans learn. The universe is a very complicated place, and humans have had millions of years to evolve the ability to navigate and make sense of it. Another approach is “brain emulation” where you model actual human brains at the cellular level and create an emulation of the entire human brain. In that case, human minds and personalities become the basis for the minds of robots.

A world of smart, capable robots leads to other questions. Robots are essentially immortal and can transport and duplicate themselves electronically around the world. While there are many benefits to having mature AI systems, we must also consider what will happen as AI gets better and better. The machines could replace millions of workers. Is it ethical to turn off an advanced machine brain? And what if “they” decide we’re no longer useful?

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