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Artificial Intelligence

Interview with Toby Walsh

There's no chance of AI taking over the world anytime soon

03 Mar. 2017
Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh is one of the world's leading experts in artificial intelligence (AI). He was named by the Australian newspaper as a "rock star" of the digital revolution, and included in the inaugural Knowledge Nation 100, the list of the 100 most important digital innovators in Australia. Professor Walsh's research focuses on how computers can interact with humans to optimize decision-making for the common good.

Mr. Walsh, your twitter account @TobyWalsh has been voted one of the Top 10 to follow to keep abreast of developments in AI. So: Can you tell us in 140 characters, how AI will change our world?

AI could make us all healthier, wealthier and happier. But like any technology, it is morally neutral. We need then to choose a good path.

What will you talk about at the CeBIT Global Conferences?

I will be talking about what Artificial Intelligence (AI) can and cannot do. I'll explain why AI is making headlines today, why we appear to be making such good progress, and where it might take us. I'll share some thoughts on what AI is not yet capable of, and probably won’t be capable of for some time to come. Finally, I'll talk about some of the associated societal risks, and how AI is both part of the problem and also likely part of the cure.

Some people are afraid that AI will take over the world soon. What would you tell them?

There's no chance of AI taking over the world anytime soon. But there are three issues you should be worrying about today: the impact of AI on warfare, the impact of AI on employment, and algorithmic discrimination.

There is an arms race to get autonomous weapons onto the battlefield. This will be a terrible and terrifying future. Especially when terrorists get their hands on them, as they will. As for jobs, AI will replace many jobs. We need to start planning for this. And finally algorithms are already being put in place where unwittingly they can discriminate against groups. Many hard-fought rights will be lost if we are not careful.

What is the next big thing in AI?

The next big thing in AI will be AI mistakes. As Microsoft discovered with the Tay chatbot, and Tesla with the first fatal crash in Florida, when AI is put in control, it can make serious mistakes. Companies need to plan carefully for how their AI programs might impact their business.

Mark Zuckerberg programed his own AI "Jarvis". What do you think about it?

It appears Mark found out what AI experts have known for some time now: that the technology is still rather brittle and requires an expert to make it work. It's getting better, but there’s still a long way to go before you can simply plug and play.

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