Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Death of HAL –the Evolving Digital Ecosystem

One of the greatest fears of many is the underlying knowledge that, all the wonderful advances of technology, the internet and robotics is simply bringing us closer to being subservient to our robotic overlords. It is essentially a historical imperative, and we can see it coming a mile away.

However British Computer Society President and ECS Professor of Artificial Intelligence Nigel Shadbolt, believes differently.

Shadbolt believes that the future of artificial intelligence will be much different, though no less exciting, than previously expected. “AI has had a huge influence on the past and present of computer science – it will be a large part of the future but not in the way you might think."

According to the AI expert from the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, the difference between the Hollywood style intelligence and what we are seeing evolve around us comes in many forms. For example, it is seen in the computers that can beat chess champions, robotic vacuums like the Roomba, and in the immense power being exhibited by the internet.

Instead of intelligence that is a “brain in a box”, we are seeing intelligence that is assistive, adaptive and flexible. They are helping us “drive our cars, diagnose disease and provide opponents in computer games.”
In other words, instead of an intelligence that is “…agonizing about their existence or whether we are about to switch them off” we are seeing the growth of intelligence that, in years to come, will immerse us and center around humans, rather than feel the need to enslave humans.

“There will be micro-intelligences all around us – systems that are very good and adaptive at particular tasks, and we will be immersed in environments stuffed full of helpful devices.”

He takes his theory further, all the way in to the tubes of the internet. In collaboration with Professor Tim Berners-Lee – the co-inventor of the World Wide Web – the pair have been investigating the next generation Web. “What is emerging now is a digital ecosystem,’ says Professor Shadbolt, ‘involving lots of simple systems which connect millions of complex ones – humans!”

And there begins to be a certain amount of logic and a lessening of the fear I feel for the day when I am some robots whipping boy. We see such developments already in websites such as Facebook and Flickr, and programs such as Google Earth and World of Warcraft. We are being linked together, ever so slowly by a collective conscience.

Such a collective conscience, or intelligence, is self-evident in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia as well. Shadbolt describes Wikipedia as “…the communal expression of a great deal of our encyclopedic knowledge…” As a result, the web will be smart because of humans, not of itself. It is our collective intelligence that is providing the intelligence we feared robots would develop on their own.

Shadbolt suggests that“You don’t need to worry about the robot next door deciding to make a bid for world domination!”

Posted by Josh Hill.

Original here

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