Artificial Intelligence: should we be afraid?

Published:  January 29, 2016

We’ve seen enough science fiction movies and read enough books to imagine what the world would be like if robots took over. But what was once fiction is now reality. Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is very much part of our lives. From the very amiable Siri app on our iPhones to music streaming services like Spotify, which has an algorithm that understands the music preferences and behaviours of users, we are currently living in an always-on world. And now there are new breeds of computers that can interpret human intent and get meaning from photos, videos and text.

But, as computers get smarter and smarter, there are concerns being raised about these advances going unchecked and the consequences of them. This will be further discussed in great detail at Pause Fest 2016.

In the lead-up to that, we check in with some experts and get their opinion on AI.

Bradley Paton, Reactive (part of Accenture Interactive)


“That’s the big question surrounding advancements in Artificial Intelligence – does this represent a brilliant opportunity, or could it be humanity’s last invention? Some of the world’s leading thinkers, including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, have raised their concerns if AI advances unchecked.

The flipside is a world in which a ‘super intelligent’ AI is able to solve extraordinarily complex problems at a rate unimaginable by human standards.

One thing is certain – the rate of change will only continue to increase. To capitalise on the opportunities we need to address the range of social, economic, political and ethical AI questions now. This requires engagement with industry and political leaders, as well as the wider community.”

Joanna L Batstone, PhD, vice president and lab director, IBM Research – Australia and chief technology officer, IBM Australia and New Zealand


“Artificial Intelligence is a field of computer science and has been part of the fabric of information technology for decades. Today, ‘intelligence’ is embedded in electric grids, smartphones, the internet, supply chains and navigation and many other types of ‘intelligent’ systems. The future of such technology – which we believe will be cognitive, not ‘artificial’ – has very different characteristics from those generally attributed to AI, spawning different kinds of challenges and opportunities with different requirements for governance, policy and management.

Those engaged in serious information science and the real world of business and society understand the enormous potential of intelligent systems. Cognitive computing systems learn at scale, reason with purpose and interact with humans naturally. They learn and reason from their interactions with us and their experiences with their environment. They generate not just answers to numerical problems, but hypotheses, reasoned arguments, and recommendations. None of this involves autonomy on the part of machines. Rather, it consists of augmenting the human ability to harness technology in the pursuit of knowledge, to further our expertise and to improve the human condition. Cognitive computing represents not just a new technology, but the dawn of a new era of technology, business and society: the Cognitive Era.”

This article first appeared in the desktop-Pause special.
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