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Why Study Artificial Intelligence – A New Age, or the End of Humanity?

Perhaps it is because I am a closeted conspiracy theorist, or perhaps it is because I have seen too many episodes of ‘Black Mirror’, but I am not very trusting of Artificial Intelligence (AI). From a manipulative computer in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ to a murderous robot in ‘Ex Machina’, we have a tendency to portray AI as a threat to humans.

But how real is this threat?

Well, people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have come forward and said that they believe that AI could potentially be very dangerous, as we can’t control machines that are more powerful to us. Elon Musk compared AI to “summoning the devil” at a lecture at MIT. Nick Bostrom is a philosopher at Oxford University who came up with a thought experiment called the ‘Paperclip Maximiser’ which illustrates the risk of AI through Instrumental Convergence. He said this:

“Suppose we have an AI whose only goal is to make as many paperclips as possible. The AI will realise that it would be much better if there were no humans because humans might decide to switch it off. Because if humans do so, there would be fewer paper clips. Also, human bodies contain a lot of atoms that could be made into paper clips. The future that the AI would be trying to gear towards would be one in which there were a lot of paper clips but no humans”

– Nick Bostrom, Artificial Intelligence May Doom The Human Race Within a Century, The Huffington Post.

(Suddenly paperclips look a heck of a lot more threatening, don’t they?)

However, this being said, there are so many benefits to AI. They could do half a century of research in an hour, identify illnesses better than any human, and create more jobs.

Perhaps it is these benefits, and more, that is inspiring more and more young people to study Artificial Intelligence at University. There are so many benefits to AI that it would be hard to deny that it is worth developing.

With more research, more diversity in researchers, and more voices being heard we may be able to create a world where Artificial Intelligence and Humans can live peacefully and prosperously. AI needs to be researched carefully and nurtured by the right kind of person.

If you, like many other students recently, feel inspired to help develop AI in a safe way, and want to study it at University then by all means go for it!

According to Nature Index, the best Universities in the world to study AI are:

  • Harvard University, USA
  • Stanford University, USA
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
  • Max Planck Society, Germany
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • University College London (UCL), UK
  • Columbia University in the City of New York, USA
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA

Perhaps I was too quick to judge Artificial Intelligence and dismissed all the positives it could bring. We already are experiencing some of the benefits of AI in the algorithm YouTube uses to recommend you videos, to your email putting things in Spam (although, this is not always perfect), to directions, to predictive typing!

AI does not seem nearly as daunting when we realise that it is already a part of our lives, and we may not have even realised it!

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