The Technological Glitch
Few modern people are unaware of the huge developmental leaps technology has taken or how that technology continues to advance at an alarming rate. While a vast array of products are intriguing, from smart phones to sex toys, the ultimate goal is - and always has been - functional artificial intelligence. Similar to the new series Humans, on AMC every Sunday, scientists and the average person alike both expect and fear computers which think, function, and look just like us.
Thus we have to ask ourselves, when we can explore space, video chat flawlessly with someone on the other side of Earth, and develop super robots to aid the military, how this AI vision still seems so unattainable.
Yes, we have several attempts at AI in the works. There are chatbots which learn, various humanoid robots such as Jules by Hanson Robotics and sex robots such as Roxxxy, but none of them would pass the Touring Test. It comes down to the Uncanny Valley, each and every current AI attempt failing due to unusual movement, awkward and detached conversation, or simply appearing as fake as an inanimate doll.
So, why is this? Why has a wall been hit on AI intellect?
A big part of the problem comes down to basic psychology. We limit AI experience and content. Even by exposing them to Twitter, Google, and conversations with thousands via chats, those conversations are disjointed and remarkably limited. Twitter posts are condensed information, chats limited to the whim of the participants, and while Google may be a vast array of information it certainly is no life experience. For AI to reach our level they must be exposed at our level, subjected to Facebook and media such as music and movies. They must be allowed to spark conversations without prompt, to be able to do more than converse (such as create art, write a poem, or listen to a song of their own accord).
Just as with human development, AI needs to be shown a wide array of content and to be permitted the ability to try different things. They need a frame of reference, or context rather, which can only be gained by allowing them to explore without limitation.
One might argue allowing such exposure would lead to AI surpassing us, or the Skynet takeover - as many loosely put it. However, the argument against AI intelligence and ability over the fear of takeover is a logical fallacy. Assuming just because they're smarter and/or stronger means they'll eliminate or enslave us is as silly as assuming that because humans are smarter and stronger than ants that we'd exterminate the entire species or enslave them (note, we haven't done either).
The fear of true AI boils down to a human fear of the unknown. If successful, AI could arguably be a new species. If there's self awareness, consciousness, and the ability to self sustain there's certainly an argument that they'd qualify as people deserving of rights and protections, freedoms. Similar to the lash back over equal rights for women or blacks, the fight to allow true AI and allow them a fair existence will be a difficult and uphill one.
Psychologically, humanity must stop thinking of AI machines in the same manner we do our laptops and phones. Just as we honor the life of a test tube baby as legitimate, despite its unnatural conditions of coming into existence, we must honor the existence of life we create in other forms. Especially when one considers AI could reach a stage where they'd have bodies virtually the same as ours - capable of love making, feeling pleasure and pain and hot and cold, eating and drinking, maybe even of becoming intoxicated or high - the question of 'alive or not' becomes more blurred and vital to answer.
Consider the organs created in the movie Bicentennial Man by Robin William's character. Since artificial technological organs are already successfully in the works there's no reason to think robots with artificial organs, sensory systems, nervous systems, neurological systems, and more couldn't soon exist. It's really not science fiction anymore but a question of when.
Thus, how can people continue to regard AI in that manner, as objects rather than life?
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary 'life' is defined as "the ability to grow, change". While AI may not physically be able to grow, their minds and perspectives most definitely do and it's inarguable that they change as their knowledge and perspectives alter.
With the race for AI ever developing, technological advances making the goal closer as I write, the time to consider AI ethics, morals, and social questions is now. If the discussion is staved off until AI is a normal thing we likely will face gruesome challenges as humanity and AI adjust to each other and struggle for balance. And the debate needs to be a public one, one which involves the average person. After all, in the end, AI will be in everyone's lives; perhaps as nannies, teachers, cashiers, or even lovers, their existence effects us all. The debate should not be left to the scientists, engineers, and other creators of machinery but should involve every living person.
With how prominent the issue is it's a wonder the topic remains largely undebated with seriousness. Most views remain either strictly educational, philosophical, or fictionalized. To cover the topic in full we must combine those views, consider both what is and what will be.