An academic and technologist has hit out all the false information doing the rounds about AI, and claimed in many ways, technology is much more in its infancy than we are led to believe.
Speaking at the Adtech conference in Sydney, Dr Nico Neumann, an assistant professor at Melbourne Business School, claimed that the doomsday scenarios of killer robots or a scarcity of human jobs “are not real”.
According to Dr Neumann, businesses, workers and consumers alike need to take a reality check on exactly where artificial intelligence (AI) currently stands, rather than the very limited view that is presented.
“Next time you see a big headline, replace the word ‘AI’ with ‘computer program’ and see whether it’s still exciting,” he quoted Dr Roger Schank of Northwestern University in the US as saying.
Dr Neumann showed a video of a Japanese-made humanoid robot doing basic acrobatic (doing jumps and a backflip), which has garnered thousands of views online. However, he then showed another video much less widely viewed taken during the testing phase, with the robot struggling to recognise a shelving unit before ultimately toppling backwards, taking the shelves with it.
This limited view of AI machines in practice, he said, is distorting our perception of the current level of sophistication the technology possesses, and overlooks the amount of human intervention required for machine learning to take place.
Facebook wasn’t forced to shut down its AI program because it grew too smart, but simply changed the parameters of its experiment, he said.
Similarly, the recent deaths attributed to driverless cars have highlighted the limitations of “intelligent vehicles” in learning and adapting to various scenarios without manual inputs.
“Every error you have in a program could multiply to hundreds of thousands of cars,” said Dr Neumann, noting that doesn’t factor in the legal and financial limitations on AI development, as well as safety, potential social backlash and considering all possible scenarios.
He highlighted other examples, such as machines’ inability to differentiate between the rolls of a Shar Pei puppy and a folded towel of the same colour, and the mixed reviews of autonomous vacuum cleaners getting stuck on cables or spreading dust, as evidence of the lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) and situational awareness that machines have, or could ever have.
My Business has even heard one instance of an autonomous vacuum cleaner spreading used cat litter throughout a home.
For these reasons, Dr Neumann said the idea that AI will replace human jobs within 10 to 20 years is far-fetched.
While he admitted some jobs may be lost to machines, these are almost certain to be “repetitive” jobs that are “not the most fulfilling”.
“The biggest threat is not AI, it’s people using it for the wrong thing,” Dr Neumann concluded, highlighting the example of facial recognition being used to determine whether someone is gay, as in some countries homosexuality is punishable by death.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.