AI and Machine Learning: A Guide to the Apocalypse

I should preface this argument with a disclaimer: No, an army of saw blade-wielding flame-spewing robots will not be enslaving humanity any time soon, or at least not within the next few years, so you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Or, perhaps you should be even more concerned, as the artificial intelligence takeover will be just subtle enough to fly under the radar of our species before we are usurped from our throne as the dominant life form on Planet Earth.

One Ancient Greek legend depicts a bronze automaton, known as Talos, brought to life from the forge of Hephaestus. Jason and the Argonauts were nearly brought to their end by this divine robot, but Jason’s lover, Medea, was able to trick Talos into removing the bronze nail that held tight his life-giving ichor. While Talos’ defeat is surely a triumphant story of mankind over machine, the global technology network of the present day cannot be put down by removing a single bronze nail if things go terribly wrong one day. Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are a few of the big names in science who have warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence, with Musk referring to the practice as “summoning the demon.” Sam Altman, who works alongside Elon as co-chairman of OpenAI, seems to be more optimistic, as he notes through self policing and open-source AI development, potential risks should be more than offset, leaving humanity on track to reap the rewards of exponential development in the tech industry.

The first crucial step in your preparations for the AI takeover will be knowing your enemy. Learn where these programs are being used, whether through face recognition on social media or by piloting your Uber back from a night out in the city. A more obvious and well known example of machine learning at work was through the 2016 Go match (a popular two player board game of Chinese origin) between South Korean world champion Lee Sedol and the computer program AlphaGo, developed by Google DeepMind in London. AlphaGo ended up winning the match 4-1, an incredible feat for a game with over 2^361 possible board states.

Once you have recognized where instances of Artificial Intelligence are prevalent—that is, many more places than you might expect—your next step is to learn the language of our soon to be overlords. Learning higher concepts of Computer Science and applying them through a programming language of your choice, even from a brief introductory lecture, will leave you all the more well armed if our refrigerators begin to take over.

– Matthew Groll ’18

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