The Robots Are Coming

Two men with a stake in AI — Stanford University’s (Calif.) Kenneth Taylor and Joe Buckner ’09, director of engineering at AutonomouStuff in Morton, Ill. — discussed their views on the Fourth Industrial Revolution at separate campus events.

Kenneth Taylor Stanford University Scholar Joe Buckner ’09 AutonomouStuff
“Disruptive technological change has been foisted onto society as a whole by those who own the means of production. We can’t leave decisions in the hands of those who stand to make a profit. I like the market, but it’s not God.” What’s the current state of artificial intelligence? “We’re in the midst of a Fourth Industrial Revolution that will change people’s lives and perceptions as much as the first three (steam power, mass production, the internet).”
“We needn’t fear that AI radically outperforms us in our most uniquely human abilities nor fear the singularity. Given that we don’t understand tricks our minds employ, we don’t have a clue what the singularity should look like.” What are the benefits of AI and autonomous vehicles for society? “It absolutely will make the world a safer place.”
“We never imagined somebody could hijack a plane with boxcutters. Somebody did. Imagination always wins. Imagine the best and worst. What guarantees the best wins?” What’s a word of caution for AI’s future? “There’s always this struggle between security and those trying to compromise the systems — as soon as you make a better mousetrap, someone can figure it out. The ultimate safety feature is a human behind the wheel able to take control.”
“AI definitely is an amazing tool. Just think of the driverless car, and some radiologists think AI is another tool in their kit. If it’s like that, it’s a win-win. The question is if you can guarantee that.” How does AI enhance what humans already do well? “You only have two eyes, and you can only look in one direction. An autonomous vehicle is always looking in every direction at the same time. What it cannot do is make split-second ethical decisions.”
“Robots are coming. They are relentless. If we can’t stop or reverse the robot invasion, we must confront questions. Should we seek to regulate? Accept the inevitability they’re taking jobs? How do we find meaning in a world without cognitive labor? Where is AI going in the future? “Infrastructure — physical and digital — needs to be developed, but that’s expensive. Security measures also need to be upgraded while autonomous vehicles themselves are fine-tuned and legal issues, such as liability in accidents, resolved.”

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