Today’s society is addicted to technology. The average person cannot imagine living a day without the Internet and the smart phones (and tablets) that provide it. Most people primarily communicate online and an increasing number of people work and attend class virtually. We pay bills and shop online; meet friends and find jobs online; in many ways we live more online than offline! Now that the Internet is fully embedded in the mainstream psyche of most developed societies, there is an increasing shift in interest towards robots and machines that can help people complete non-virtual and/or communicative endeavors.
The Internet can help people communicate but it cannot help us do mundane tasks, like many chores. To combat this, home helpers like Asmio are being created that will be able to help people (especially the elderly) do everyday tasks like wash dishes, vacuum, make beds, and pick up heavy objects. Likewise, people have now developed robots that can go places that humans cannot. In Japan a robot named Korobo was recently launched into space with astronauts. If the robot handles this first flight well he might eventually be able to take a trip to a planet such as Mars or Jupiter—locations that could be deadly to humans and certainly dangerous to visit. Using a robot for such a mission would eliminate the risk of endangering someone’s life while also satisfying our ceaseless curiosity about the galaxy.
Although there are many positive potentials for robots—which are more or less untapped as of now—there is also a certain level of risk associated with them. Human nature has a dark side and as quickly as we can create robots to help people we could also develop them to be machines of war that would obviously lack any sense of compassion, conscience or morals. It is a frightening thought but, given our present dependency on machines, something that is not entirely without merit.
The Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI) has recognized this very-real possibility and has thereby focused attention on trying to ensure that any general artificial intelligence that humanity creates is beneficial to mankind, not detrimental.
According to the official website of MIRI:
“MIRI’s mission is to ensure that the creation of smarter-than-human intelligence has a positive impact. We aim to make intelligent machines behave as we intend even in the absence of immediate human supervision. Much of our current research deals with reflection, an AI’s ability to reason about its own behavior in a principled rather than ad-hoc way. We focus our research on AI approaches that can be made transparent (e.g. principled decision algorithms, not genetic algorithms), so that humans can understand why the AIs behave as they do.”
It might seem like Science Fiction to some, but the age of robotics is upon us and—in twenty or thirty years—robots might be as commonplace as the Internet currently is. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to support the development of benevolent machines.
For more information about the MIRI visit their official website here: http://intelligence.org/research/