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Will artificial intelligence be threat to human society?

By Xinhua | March 15th 2016

Google supercomputer AlphaGo outsmarted South Korean Go champion Lee Sedol, winning 4-1 in the best of five game series that came to an end on Tuesday, as people begin to wonder whether the ever-changing world of artificial intelligence (AI) will one day pose a threat to the human society.

Michael Thielscher, a professor at Australia's University of New South Wales (UNSW), said the supercomputer can only play Go and is unable to do anything besides what it has been programmed for.

"It's now better it seems than any human player but it's still only good at Go, and this is probably the biggest weakness of many existing artificial intelligence systems, that they lack what we call artificial general intelligence," Thielscher, a professor of computer science and engineering, told Xinhua.

Google itself is a big believer in AI. In recent years, its self-driving cars have been gaining a lot of attention.

Thielscher is of the opinion the cars can help humanity by reducing the number of people who die on the world's roads each year, although noting they are not yet perfect.

"They get stuck simply because they lack that common sense, and it appears humans are still much better at dealing with these daily life situations than AI systems are," he said.

The sporting world is also an area that has seen the growth of technology and AI.

The Robot Soccer World Cup or RoboCup, is an international robotics competition founded in 1997.

It aims to have a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players win a soccer game complying with the official rules of FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup by 2050.

"I think there's a fair chance of getting something competitive in the next 30 odd years that can play outside as well as [with] humans in a difficult game like that," UNSW Australia PhD student in robotics and artificial intelligence, Sean Harris told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, Ross Dawson, Australian futurist and founding chairman of Advanced Human Technologies Group, said the growth of AI can put humans at risk.

History of humanity is one of machines displacing humans in their work, said Dawson.

"There is the possibility that we will see unemployment rise as people who are in jobs today are supplanted by automation and they are not able to find other gainful employment," Dawson said.

"You will almost inevitably see people who try to use these powers of these technologies for hopes that are destructive of people and of society."

Harris also highlighted the dangers that come with today's progressing technology.

"I think any sort of technology like that has the opportunity to be exploited for good or for bad, I don't think that's any difference for artificial intelligence," Harris said.

"The same way we develop planes that allow us to fly around the world; they also allow us to drop bombs all away around the world."

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