Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine

April 9, 2009
Author:
J. Storrs Hall

Beyond AIArtificial intelligence (AI) is now advancing at such a rapid clip that it has the potential to transform our world in ways both exciting and disturbing. Computers have already been designed that are capable of driving cars, playing soccer, and finding and organizing information on the Web in ways that no human could. With each new gain in processing power, will scientists soon be able to create supercomputers that can read a newspaper with understanding, or write a news story, or create novels, or even formulate laws? And if machine intelligence advances beyond human intelligence, will we need to start talking about a computer’s intentions?

These are some of the questions discussed by computer scientist J. Storrs Hall in this fascinating layperson’s guide to the latest developments in artificial intelligence. Drawing on a thirty-year career in artificial intelligence and computer science, Hall reviews the history of AI, discussing some of the major roadblocks that the field has recently overcome, and predicting the probable achievements in the near future. There is new excitement in the field over the amazing capabilities of the latest robots and renewed optimism that achieving human-level intelligence is a reachable goal.

But what will this mean for society and the relations between technology and human beings? Soon ethical concerns will arise and programmers will need to begin thinking about the computer counterparts of moral codes and how ethical interactions between humans and their machines will eventually affect society as a whole. Weaving disparate threads together in an enlightening manner from cybernetics, computer science, psychology, philosophy of mind, neurophysiology, game theory, and economics, Hall provides an intriguing glimpse into the astonishing possibilities and dilemmas on the horizon.