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It is no secret that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics are fast-paced technologies that are growing more rapidly than they’re able to be applied. The prospect of improving our lives through advancements in these fields is extremely exciting yet equally worrisome, as there are serious implications to AI, its purpose, use, and possibility to cause harm. The interest and concern surrounding AI’s potential has many governments around the world taking a serious interest in the field, with Great Britain’s Parliament being no exception.

Parliament’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a Robotics and Artificial Intelligence report that asked numerous questions on the use of AI, and its safety and welfare to humanity: questions such as the economic and social implications of machines versus humans, and the ethical and legal issues surrounding the safety, control, and governance aspects of these technologies. The report concluded that “While it is too soon to set down sector-wide regulations for this nascent field, it is vital that careful scrutiny of the ethical, legal and societal dimensions of artificially intelligent systems begins now.”

To add to the promising and unsettling possibilities of artificial intelligence and robotics, Matt Reynolds of the New Scientist recently justified Parliament’s concern by reporting on AI’s capacity to write its own code and learn on its own by stealing from other programs. Matt writes, “DeepCoder uses a technique called program synthesis: creating new programs by piecing together lines of code taken from existing software.”

Talk about there being a whole lot at stake here!

If an artificially-intelligent robot can program itself, learn from itself, and steal code or programs from others, then who or what is to stop it from eventually being beyond a human’s control? While there are benefits to having AI learn from itself and help out mankind, its social and economic implications are obvious. Not only will mankind be affected in unknown ways (as the possibilities to use these technologies are endless), but there will be an obvious economic impact caused by the replacement of workers in areas where AI deems them obsolete.

Technology and advancement always come at a price, and AI is a field that has taken off in its innovation, but it could surely benefit from greater public focus. If more attention were given to the breakthroughs–whether beneficial or dangerous–in these fields and their implications, we’d find ourselves (at a social level) having much needed conversations on the pros, cons, and potential need for governance and control, sooner rather than later. In fact, Parliament’s report concluded “Not only would this help to ensure that the UK remains focused on developing ‘socially beneficial’ AI systems, it would also represent an important step towards fostering public dialogue about, and trust in, such systems over time.” Dialogue and trust. Two major and important components that cannot be overlooked and will need to be addressed if the technology is to be readily accepted into society.

For more information on this very exciting and controversial topic, check out AI Learns To Read Its Own Code by Stealing from Other Programs.

– Marianna
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