Microsoft Executive to Fund Study to Examine Effects of Artificial Intelligence!

Dear Commons Community,

Eric Horvitz, the Managing Director of the Redmond, Wash., campus of Microsoft Research, has agreed to fund a century-long study of the effects of artificial intelligence on society, including on the economy, war and crime. The project will be housed at Stanford University but will include participants from several other major universities. The project is unusual not just because of its duration but because it seeks to track the effects of these technologies as they reshape the roles played by human beings in a broad range of endeavors. As reported in the New York Times:

“My take is that A.I. is taking over,” said Sebastian Thrun, a well-known roboticist, who led the development of Google’s self-driving car. “A few humans might still be ‘in charge,’ but less and less so.”

Artificial intelligence describes computer systems that perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence and perception. In 2009, the president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Eric Horvitz, organized a meeting of computer scientists in California to discuss the possible ramifications of A.I. advances. The group concluded that the advances were largely positive and lauded the “relatively graceful” progress.

But now, in the wake of recent technological advances in computer vision, speech recognition and robotics, scientists say they are increasingly concerned that artificial intelligence technologies may permanently displace human workers, roboticize warfare and make of Orwellian surveillance techniques easier to develop, among other disastrous effects.

Dr. Horvitz …last year approached John Hennessy, a computer scientist and president of Stanford University, about the idea of a long-term study that would chart the progress of artificial intelligence and its effect on society. Dr. Horvitz and his wife, Mary Horvitz, agreed to fund the initiative, called the “One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence.”

In an interview, Dr. Horvitz said he was unconvinced by recent warnings that superintelligent machines were poised to outstrip human control and abilities. Instead, he believes these technologies will have positive and negative effects on society.

“Loss of control of A.I. systems has become a big concern,” he said. “It scares people.” Rather than simply dismiss these dystopian claims, he said, scientists instead must monitor and continually evaluate the technologies.

“Even if the anxieties are unwarranted, they need to be addressed,” Dr. Horvitz said…

In a white paper outlining the project, Dr. Horvitz described 18 areas that might be considered, including law, ethics, the economy, war and crime. Future reports will be produced at regular intervals.”



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