Artificial intelligence is the future. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple are all making big bets on AI. (Amazon owner Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.) Congress has held hearings and even formed a bipartisan Artificial Intelligence Caucus. From health care to transportation to national security, AI has the potential to improve lives. But it comes with fears about economic disruption and a brewing “AI arms race .” Like any transformational change, it’s complicated. Perhaps the biggest AI myth is that we can be confident about its future effects. Here are five others.
It is certainly true that conversations with AI chatbots are often unintentionally funny. And no one who interacts with Alexa or Siri or Cortanais going to say they pass the Turing Test. “Their responses, often cobbled together out of fragments of stored conversations, make sense at a local level but lack long-term coherence,” Brian Christian wrote in a 2012 Smithsonian Magazine article. Garbled sentences and ridiculous responses often make clear just how poorly machines mimic human capabilities — or even, sometimes, how they process information. “Machines don’t have understanding,” Garry Kasparov told TechCrunch last year. “They don’t recognize strategical patterns. Machines don’t have purpose.”
But AI is already writing financial news, sports stories and weather reports, and readers aren’t noticing. From the Associated Press to The Washington Post, it’s becoming increasingly common. AI is also producing “deep fake” videos — from invented speeches by politicians to pornography featuring celebrities’ computer-generated faces — that many people think are real. These rapid advances present significant concerns, shaking the public’s confidence in what they see and hear. As a 2017 Harvard study warned, “The existence of widespread AI forgery capabilities will erode social trust, as previously reliable evidence becomes highly uncertain.”
China’s national strategy to lead the world in artificial intelligence — which calls for “the training and gathering of high-end AI talent” — has elicited fear and loathing in the United States. “China’s prowess in the field will help fortify its position as the dominant economic power in the world,” Will Knight observed in MIT Technology review in 2017. Writing in the Hill, Tom Daschle and David Bier warned in January that “the U.S. government is behind the curve.”