How much autonomy is too much for AI?

AI has the power to make decisions on our behalf and the world is getting excited. But there’s always that nagging question: Who will be the servant and who will be the master? Should we approach AI from a completely different angle? Should we actually hand over control at all and let the AI make its own decisions?

Well, to an extent, in some circumstances, we’re going to have to let go of the reins. AI with no decision-making power really is not AI at all.

Machine learning, at times, must be input-free

There’s no way to reap the massive benefits of machine learning if it has to wait for human input every time there’s a decision to be made. A self-driving car, for instance, simply couldn’t happen if it needed to ask a human for input whenever it had to turn or slow down. Such a vehicle would be exactly like the cars we all know today.

We want to hand over some decisions to machines because we’re forced to make so many. If you believe the Microsoft To-Do adverts, they say we make 35,000 every single day. There’s no study to back that up, but Cornell University revealed we make more than 200 decisions a day purely based on food, so it’s a reasonably educated guess.

But the interesting point is that most of them are instinctive. We don’t even think about them because they’re hardwired into our brain. When we drive by ourselves and steer away from a potential hazard, or slow down because a situation is unfolding up ahead, we make a decision. When we turn our head toward a noise, we make another.

My belief is that if we want to automate tasks, we need to empower machines to make similar decisions. I don’t see an issue with handing over many unconscious decisions to AI. Steering our car around a hazard is different than making a decision about where we’re driving. We can draw this line in the sand and this is something that we must do.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in my belief that a line has to be drawn. How and where to draw it, however, is subject to debate.

Where do we draw the line in the sand?

Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and just about everybody else in technology have warned that AI could take over the world and wipe us off the face of the Earth. Musk is a major benefactor of the Future of Life Institute, which is determined to maintain control over AI and is prepared to fight for legislation preventing us from handing over control. Legislative action would be one approach to drawing…

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