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How artificial intelligence will do our dirty work, take our jobs and change our lives

At its crudest, most reductive, we could sum up the future of artificial intelligence as being about robot butlers v killer robots.

If we were to jump forward 50 years to see what artificial intelligence might bring us, would we – Terminator-style – step into a world of human skulls being crushed under the feet of our metal and microchip overlords?

In his recent book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Max Tegmark talks about the tiresome media fixation with red-eyed robots wielding guns who, having become self-aware, tick “destroy humanity” off the top of their to-do list.

It could order your food before you know you've run out, regulate the temperature of your house when it knows you're on your way home, organise your exercise regime, book your hair appointment, keep your medicines topped up, find a new job and so much more.

In a frankly disturbing section, Tegmark goes on to explain just a few of the outrageous ways in which mean-minded states, groups or individuals could one day use AI to kill people with “weapons they don’t even understand”.

For instance, a totalitarian state might employ AI to create a pathogen that incubates in us long before we know we’ve been infected, and then forces the population to wear a “security bracelet” that contains the possible cure.

Noah Nuval Harari in 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, points out that while drones have replaced pilots on missions, they still require a remote pilot, a tech support team and a data analyst to review photographic information gathered on a flight.

Tegmark’s career advice for a future generation is to avoid jobs with repetitive or structured actions (driving, credit analysis, warehouse work) in favour of those which involve interacting with people, finding creative solutions and working in unpredictable environments.

And machine intelligence might replace a doctor in diagnosing your illness, but can it replace the nurse who coaxes a child into giving blood, or gently breaks news of a terminal illness?

Narrow intelligence is also the kind found in gameplaying programmes that regularly make a media splash, whether it’s beating chess grandmasters or becoming experts at Atari games.

As leading expert, computer scientist Stuart Russell has said of these self-taught gameplaying AIs: “If your baby did that – woke up [on] the first day in the hospital and by the end of the day was beating everyone, beating all the doctors at Atari videogames - you’d be pretty terrified.” It brings us back to the notion that it’s not the technology we should worry about over the next 50 years, but the goals and ethics we infuse it with.

In a recent opinion piece for The Irish Times, author Tom Chivers described a scenario in which we ask a powerful AI to cure cancer, so it simply nukes “the planet clean of humans” rather than deal with the tumours.

Creating artificial general intelligence within 50 years would involve steep challenges, not least because we don’t properly understand intelligence or consciousness in ourselves (although even a super-intelligent computer wouldn’t necessarily be conscious or self-aware in a way that we imagine it).

Furthermore, there is an acknowledged paradox in how a computer can be superior at tasks we find hard (say, maths) but inferior at things we find easy – such as recognising faces or voices, walking, moving things around, socialising, recognising emotional needs.

Our day-to-day skills of perception, reaction, planning, recognition, motor-skills and so much else have evolved over millions of years to look simple when they in fact they require massive computational resources.

“If you take a couple that have been married for 50 years, say, a raised eyebrow could be worth 20 minutes of conversation in a relationship – so there’s all these layers of history and communication.” Does Kelly think we’ll have our robot butlers in 50 years?

As we’re already complacent with the idea of a small number of tech giants organising, and intruding on, our lives, will we be comfortable with the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook being among a handful of giants corporations who in coming decades, owning so much of our personal data, might use AI to wield massive influence on our lives?

“I think our general level of scientific and technological literacy is poor and the potential impact of that is very dangerous, because it puts the control of technology in the hands of the few,” adds Kelly.

“One of the manifestations of that is that you have elected representatives making decisions who are very poorly equipped to make decisions about technology and the impact of technology.” So, to prepare for our world in 50 years time, we’ll need to know now what kind of future we want and figure out how to get there.

Don’t be crushed by complexity

That’s due to years of layering technologies on technologies and relying on different suppliers for different processes, all to deliver voice and data services managed by different business units.

When over-the-top (OTT) content players came on the scene, service providers didn’t have the agility to claim the right piece of this new value chain: they just opened the gates for the OTTs to pass through.

Unlike 3G and 4G, which are defined by how they handle the two dimensions of capacity and distance, 5G is, in the words of Nokia Bell Labs, “a nine-dimensional innovation fabric”, with three dimensions in each of three domains: capacity, reliability and latency.

Those extra dimensions of 5G will open up vast new opportunities for service providers to offer more value to customers — especially enterprises — by supporting their business goals of cost control, increased productivity and the like.

That will demand a fundamental change in capabilities and orientation so that operational systems can actively evaluate situations and take the right actions automatically, fulfilling the intent of the service versus executing actions and commands.

You can also watch my interviews on the Future of Operations website for more insights on the major trends affecting service providers as they enter the 5G era.  Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #FutureOfOperations #Telcos #Operations.

Facebook AI forces poker pros to fold in Texas Hold'em tourney

The contest added a layer of complexity, as each game featured six players, creating more sets of scenarios for the AI to manage.  None of that stopped the poker-playing bot Pluribus.

'This is the first time an AI bot has proven capable of defeating top professionals in any major benchmark game that has more than two players (or two teams),' Facebook said in a blog post.

'We're using poker as a benchmark for a measure in progress in this more complicated challenge of hidden information in a complex multiparticipant environment,' said Noam Brown, a research scientist at Facebook AI Research.

The research group, which works on advancing AI technology, is also teaching robots to walk on their own.  Brown built Pluribus, which means 'more' in Latin, with Tuomas Sandholm, a CMU computer science professor whose team has studied computer poker for more than 16 years.

The researchers set up two experiments, one in which a single human played five copies of Pluribus, and another in which five humans played a single copy of the bot.

In both cases, Pluribus clearly won.  In the first experiment, Darren Elias and Chris 'Jesus' Ferguson, both American poker pros, played 5,000 hands each against five copies of the AI bot.

Pluribus went against five human players at a time over 12 days and played 10,000 hands.  Pluribus won an average of 48 milli big blinds per game.

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