For China – good news! For humanity – possible extinction!
The People’s Republic of China has vowed to become a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI) within a decade, and the government will spend billions on developing computers that are capable of thinking for themselves. The Communist powerhouse wants to become world leader in the field within a decade.
China has issued a “national AI development plan” to exceed efforts by Western market leaders, including Google and Microsoft. The Chinese will spend $22.15 billion on AI research by 2020, and $59.07 billion by 2025. Because of their government-owned defense industry and low wages, the actual costs – comparable to the U.S. – will be five to ten times those numbers, far exceeding American investment in the same field.
“The local and central government are supporting this AI effort,” said Rui Yong, chief technology officer at PC maker Lenovo Group – the IBM computer company that was allowed by U.S. regulators to be sold to China.
Rui said China is pushing AI because it is seen as the latest “industrial revolution” – just the same as the impacts of the combustion engine, electricity and the internet. He explained China’s position this way.
We see the fourth industrial revolution as coming; we better invest and support and build a very strong ecosystem. We must take initiative to firmly grasp this new stage of development for artificial intelligence and create a new competitive edge.
What’s the downside of Chinese (or American) super robots?
Nick Bostrom, who heads the University of Oxford’s Future Of Humanity Institute, said that one slip up in the development of (AI) could spell curtains for humanity:
There is a control problem.
If you have a very tight tech race to get there first, whoever invests in safety could lose the race. This could exacerbate the risks from out of control AI.
Once computers are as intelligent as humans – a moment that experts call “singularity” – there will be an “intelligence explosion” when the machines reach super-intelligence in a very short time.
To illustrate the threat, Bostrom offered this chilling example of a machine built to make paperclips:
If this machine is super intelligent, it may decide that humans are standing in the way of its paperclip-building drive and kill us all to enhance its own productivity.
Professor Stephen Hawking has also warned that “full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”
To aid the military, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is pushing a Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program to explore safe neuro stimulation methods to activate synaptic plasticity – the brain’s ability to alter connecting points between neurons— a requirement for learning.
TNT is part of a broader portfolio of programs within DARPA that support the White House BRAIN initiative.
“The Defense Department operates in a complex, interconnected world in which human skills such as communication and analysis are vital, and the Department has long pushed the frontiers of training to maximize those skills,” Doug Weber, the TNT Program Manager, said in a DARPA press release.
“DARPA’s goal with TNT is to further enhance the most effective existing training methods so the men and women of our Armed Forces can operate at their full potential,” he explained.
Weber maintains that this brain control would speed up training:
The ideal end benefit for this kind of breakthrough would be downloadable learning. Rather than needing to learn, for example, a new language through rigorous study and practice over a long period of time, we could basically “download” the knowledge after putting our minds into a highly receptive, neuroplastic state.
Clearly, this kind of research would benefit anyone, but urgent military missions can succeed or fail based on the timing. In those situations, a faster way to train personnel would be a tremendous boon.
As part of the TNT program, DARPA is funding eight projects at seven institutions, a spokesperson explained.. The effort will first study the fundamental science of brain plasticity and conclude with human trials. Initially, the TNT program will work to unravel neural mechanisms that allow nerve stimulation to influence brain plasticity. The second portion of the program will practically apply what has been learned in a variety of training exercises.
To ensure the work stays practical, foreign language specialists, intelligence analysts, and others who train personnel now will work with researchers to help refine the TNT platform to suit military training needs.
Researchers will compare the efficacy of using an implanted device to stimulate the brain versus non-invasive stimulation. They will also explore both the ethics of enhanced learning through neuro stimulation and ways to avoid side effects and potential risks.
Goodbye, CliffsNotes. Hello, little voice in the brain.
Former DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar explains the Agency’s unique mission