Before you start making tin-foil hats or stop using Siri, you might want to listen to what Apple cofounder Steve "Woz" Wozniak has to say about artificial intelligence (AI). Wozniak, who's putting on the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC) from April 21 to 23, doesn't think we have much to worry about.
Various thought and tech leaders, such as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and scientist Stephen Hawking, are wary of AI. Both signed a letter from the Future of Life Institute (FLI) that provided a set of guidelines to follow when it comes to AI. Musk has also stated previously that he's afraid of AI. "I think that the biggest risk is not that the AI will develop a will of its own but, rather that it will follow the will of people that establish its utility function," Musk told Fortune.
"Maybe they [machines] will have feelings, and we won't even know what their feelings are."
Wozniak, like Musk, was definitely afraid when he first heard about AI. But after thinking about it more clearly and talking with his son who works in the robotics industry, Wozniak realized that this scary future of AI is "decades off." He thinks it might get there - but only by singularity, a theory by Ray Kurzweil that suggests AI will someday be superior to humans. "We used to say playing tic-tac-toe well was an artificial intelligence," Wozniak told POPSUGAR. "Oh, a computer did it. Sorry, it's too simple. So you have to play checkers. And then once they played checkers, they said, 'Oh you got to play chess.' We keep raising the limit." Wozniak understands that it comes down to what we ask AI to do (for now) rather than AI telling us what it wants to do next. "We realize it's not the same intuitive intelligence we have. I could sit down and say, 'I wonder what the best route home would be.' But a computer would only sit down to think that out if we told it to."
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Unlike other thought leaders who've predicted what AI could lead to, Wozniak appears more on the fence about its future. "Maybe they [machines] will have feelings, and we won't even know what their feelings are. Maybe they won't need the same things as us. So you can't predict it, that future, but I think it's so far off that - we're not close to it now, as much as we think we are, just because we can talk to Siri and have her talk back."
Instead, Wozniak is more concerned with how AI and robots could do away with jobs. "And jobs being lost really bothers me a lot. A normal worker, just somebody, comes up and says, 'I'm sort of skilled. There is a type of job I can do, but it doesn't exist anymore.' That's a social problem," he said.
Woz makes it clear he doesn't have the answer to the future of AI. "I don't know better than other people," he said. "Everybody's opinion's valid that's sort of well-educated." He even understands why tech and thought leaders like Musk and Hawking are afraid of AI. "I know exactly where they're coming from and how realistic the fear is too."
The topic of AI, robots, and technology is central to this year's Silicon Valley Comic Con theme, The Future of Humanity: Where Will Humanity Be in 2075? "We focused on thinking about the future, where technology can take us," said Wozniak. "But we're also celebrating the person that can take us to it with the science fair." Tickets are still available to SVCC if you're in the Bay Area; if you're lucky, you can even get a signed photo with the Woz if you donate to a nonprofit dog park.