Let me start with a non-artificial albeit not very intelligent, apology.
When prompted to re-start my Blog-writing at the beginning of this year I was determined not to let there be large gaps in production ... and if the gaps re-appeared, then to give it up for good for lack of time. I have let two and a half months go by since my last submission - it's too long, and it was not for lack of trying to get something out. I won't go into the details - they're boring, but if it happens again then I will need to heed my own advice.
Anyway, back to the topic in hand. I think we all understand what is meant by the word artificial - being something that is unreal, insincere, often man-made, but I - for one, am less clear about the word intelligence. For example I have never felt able to describe myself as being particularly intelligent. Lots of common sense - I believe, but intelligence? Although the basic definition of intelligence says something along the lines of "having the ability to learn or understand" is something that all of us, including me, can do to some extent or another. But I suppose I just look around me at people who I would consider to be far more intelligent than I am based on a variety of criteria, and judge myself accordingly.
We are now, though, bombarded daily by the term "artificial intelligence". That ability of humankind (forgive me for being so gender-specific - but I haven't found hupeoplekind yet!) to create the artificial means to do many of the jobs that are undertaken by living people in the workforce now. And there are two particular aspects of this that concern me.
Firstly, the dire warnings being talked about where we will find all of our jobs taken over by machines, leaving us out of work, out of money, and out of our minds with boredom. The second, and the follow-on, is the lack of solutions being put forward to deal with this phenomenon.
On the first issue, I recall various predictions in history where warnings of impending doom due to automation never fully came to fruition - at least in the time frame predicted. The industrial revolution comes to mind, so does the advent of accounting machines that automated much of the back office work in banks for example - and Automated Teller Machines that were introduced in the mid 1960s and were going to revolutionise bank branches and result in hundreds of thousands of bank job losses over the subsequent 10 years. And yes, banks are now beginning to close branches, but for a variety of reasons other than the ATM revolution, but it has taken 40 more years for those early predictions to come to bear, and the job losses have not been so dramatic as people have been trained in other roles. The world has moved on and we are still able to find paid employment.
Let's not be ostrich-like and stick our heads in the sand, because the speed of change and of development has undoubtedly changed the landscape. So we should recognise that artificial intelligence - in whatever format - will indeed become a feature of our lives and the lives of the generations that follow us, if they are still around!! But I nevertheless feel that human ingenuity, creativity, empathy, emotion and basic common sense has the ability to help us deal with this "brave new world" - and that we have time to prepare, as long as we do not ignore what is happening around us.
The second issue is that in the midst of all these warnings about the future, and how useless we are going to become, is the general lack of suggestion about what we are going to do about it. There is a school of thought that suggests - as in the paragraph above - that robots/artificial intelligence, whatever, will find it hard to develop such things as common sense and creativity. They will not be programmed that way, although they could perhaps go some way to developing these emotions through copying. We do, though, need people to seriously consider our options, and to start now. Obviously use robotics and artificial intelligence to undertake the work being done by manual labour as long as they can do it effectively, or to interrogate data files at a far greater speed than can be achieved by the human brain (the banks should benefit from this in their "Know Your Customer" programmes, rather than chasing us all to determine the source of the last deposit made to your account) and therefore take the drudgery out of that work - but what then do you give those people to do who have been displaced. This for me is the big dilemma, and brains far greater and better than mine need to be looking at the various options.
It is all very well creating an environment in which we are all living longer (and therefore becoming more prone to developing dementia because heart disease and other potential killers are being better diagnosed and treated), but if we have nothing to do and no way of generating a living wage - what then? I said earlier that dire predictions have been around over the centuries and we have always found a way to deal with them - but this seems to me to be somethings different. The people that I speak to about it all acknowledge that AI is the future. The question is how do we keep it under control and stop it from eventually taking over the world - our world in case you needed reminding.
We have to remember that - at this moment in time - it is us that is developing AI, not the other way round. We are in control - so far. As a result, there is of course one sure-fire way of ensuring this does not become a problem which is to recognise at what point you need to pull out the damn plug!