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How Frightened Should We Be of A.I.?

pioneer Alan Turing predicted that machines would “outstrip our feeble powers” and “take control.” In 1965, Turing’s colleague Irving Good pointed out that brainy devices could design even brainier ones, ad infinitum: “Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.” It’s that last clause that has claws.

(Self-driving cars and trucks might save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.) For them, the question is whether the risks of creating an omnicompetent Jeeves would exceed the combined risks of the myriad nightmares—pandemics, asteroid strikes, global nuclear war, etc.—that an A.G.I.

Will it come on little cat feet, a “slow takeoff” predicated on incremental advances in A.N.I., taking the form of a data miner merged with a virtual-reality system and a natural-language translator, all uploaded into a Roomba?

enthusiasts have had decades to ponder this future, and yet their rendering of it remains gauzy: we won’t have to work, because computers will handle all the day-to-day stuff, and our brains will be uploaded into the cloud and merged with its misty sentience, and, you know, like that.

Why should an entity that could be equally present in a thousand locations at once, possessed of a kind of Starbucks consciousness, cherish any particular tenderness for beings who on bad days can barely roll out of bed?

When researchers tried to get 3-D virtual creatures to develop optimal ways of walking and jumping, some somersaulted or pole-vaulted instead, and a bug-fixer algorithm ended up “fixing” bugs by short-circuiting their underlying programs.

A.G.I.s provoke us to consider whether we’re wise to search for aliens, whether we could be in a simulation (a program run on someone else’s A.I.), and whether we are responsible to, or for, God.

The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence

It’s a virtuous circle, and the United States and China have already amassed the talent, market share and data to set it in motion.

For example, the Chinese speech-recognition company iFlytek and several Chinese face-recognition companies such as Megvii and SenseTime have become industry leaders, as measured by market capitalization.

It seems American businesses will dominate in developed markets and some developing markets, while Chinese companies will win in most developing markets.

I foresee only one: Unless they wish to plunge their people into poverty, they will be forced to negotiate with whichever country supplies most of their A.I.

software — China or the United States — to essentially become that country’s economic dependent, taking in welfare subsidies in exchange for letting the “parent” nation’s A.I.

One way or another, we are going to have to start thinking about how to minimize the looming A.I.-fueled gap between the haves and the have-nots, both within and between nations.

A.I. Is Doing Legal Work. But It Won’t Replace Lawyers, Yet.

Kira’s clients report reducing the lawyer time required for contract review by 20 percent to 60 percent, said Noah Waisberg, chief executive of Kira.

Ask for the case most similar to the one you have and the Ross program, which taps some of IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence technology, reads through thousands of cases and delivers a ranked list of the most relevant ones, Mr. Salazar said.

After 10 hours of searching online legal databases, he found a case whose facts nearly mirrored the one he was working on.

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