AI100 study says artificial intelligence will change our lives but won’t kill us

Experts say human intelligence and artificial intelligence are likely to work together in the decades ahead, and that will pose a challenge for governments and the legal system. (Credit: Christine Daniloff / MIT file)
Experts say human intelligence and artificial intelligence are likely to work together in the decades ahead, and that will pose a challenge for governments and the legal system. (Credit: Christine Daniloff / MIT file)

A 100-year project conceived by Microsoft Research’s Eric Horvitz to trace the impacts of artificial intelligence has issued its first report: a 28,000-word analysis looking at how AI technologies will affect urban life in 2030.

The bottom line? Put away those “Terminator” nightmares of a robot uprising, at least for the next 15 years – but get ready for technological disruptions that will make life a lot easier for many of us while forcing some of us out of our current jobs.

That assessment comes from Stanford University’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, or AI100, which is Horvitz’s brainchild. Horvitz, a Stanford alumnus, is a former president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and the managing director of Microsoft Research’s Redmond lab.

Horvitz and his wife, Mary, created the AI100 endowment with the aim of monitoring AI’s development and effects over the coming century. The 2030 report represents a first look at AI applications across eight domains of human activity.

“This process will be a marathon, not a sprint, but today we’ve made a good start,” Russ Altman, a bioengineering professor who is AI100’s Stanford faculty director, said today in a news release.

Luminaries such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have voiced worries that AI programs could get out of hand, but the AI100 study committee says there’s no cause for immediate concern.

“No machines with self-sustaining long-term goals and intent have been developed, nor are they likely to be developed in the near future,” the report says. “Instead, increasingly useful applications of AI, with potentially profound positive impacts on our society and economy, are likely to emerge between now and 2030.”

The report does acknowledge, however, that AI tools will create social disruption as they augment or replace human labor. For that reason, it’s important for researchers, scientists and policymakers to balance innovations with social mechanisms to ensure that AI’s benefits are widely distributed.

“If society approaches these technologies primarily with fear and suspicion, missteps that slow AI’s development or drive it underground will result, impeding important work on ensuring the safety and reliability of AI technologies,” the report says.

The report looks in detail at these eight issues:

  • Transportation: Autonomous cars, trucks and aerial delivery vehicles are likely to alter work patterns, shopping routines and leisure activities in cities. Top issues: Increasing reliability, security and acceptance; adapting existing regulations and infrastructure for new transportation modes.

  • Home/service robots: Like the robotic vacuum cleaners already in some homes, specialized robots will clean and provide security at home and at work. Top issues: Technical challenges and the high cost of robots.

  • Health care: Devices to monitor personal health and robot-assisted surgery are hints of things to come. Eventually, AI software may automate some aspects of diagnosis and treatment. Top issue: Gaining the trust of human health-care providers.

  • Education: Interactive tutoring systems already help students learn languages, math and other skills. Advances in natural-language processing are likely to produce new ways to augment instruction by humans. Top issues: Avoiding haves vs. have-nots in education; monitoring the potential side effects of reducing human-to-human interaction.

  • Entertainment: The conjunction of content creation tools, social networks and AI will lead to new ways to gather, organize and deliver media. Top issue: How to leverage new forms of entertainment for the benefit of individuals and society.

  • Low-resource communities: Investments in uplifting technologies, such as predictive models to prevent lead poisoning or improve food distribution, could spread AI benefits to those who are currently underserved. Top issues: Engaging communities and building trust.

  • Public safety and security: Cameras, drones and software to analyze crime patterns should use AI in ways that reduce human bias and enhance safety without loss of liberty or dignity. Top issues: Protecting privacy and avoiding the perpetuation of built-in bias.

  • Employment and workplace: Work should start now on how to help people adapt as the economy undergoes rapid changes as many existing jobs are lost and new ones are created. Top issues: Short-term loss of transportation jobs, unpredictability of new jobs created by AI.

The study panel behind the report is chaired by Peter Stone, an AI researcher and professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Among the panel’s members are Oren Etzioni, CEO of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence; Ryan Calo of the University of Washington; Ece Kamar of Microsoft Research; and Kevin Leyton-Brown of the University of British Columbia.

AI100 plans to issue progress reports on artificial intelligence every several years, under the guidance of a standing committee.

Meanwhile, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is reviewing the results from this year’s series of workshops on artificial intelligence. Later this year, the White House is expected to issue a report on AI’s policy implications and produce a strategic plan for research and development in the field.

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