OPINIONS From AlphaGo to Atlas: The warning signs


From AlphaGo to Atlas: The warning signs


06:01, March 21, 2019

Boston Dynamics Inc.'s Atlas humanoid robot is displayed during the SoftBank Robot World 2017 in Tokyo, Japan, November 21, 2017. (Photo: VCG)

Last year, MIT's Cheetah 3 robot attracted widespread concern around the world. MIT's Cheetah 3 robot can now leap and gallop across rough terrain, climb a staircase littered with debris, and quickly recover its balance when suddenly yanked or shoved, all while essentially blind. With the development of technologies, will artificial intelligence (AI) robots be more flexible than human beings, even beating the best human athletes?

According to the latest published cutting-edge AI research papers, it is impossible for the AI robots to surpass sportsmen in 2019, but the day will come soon. And humans may face a series of crises in the future. Although the widely used industrial robots have surpassed humans in certain functions and have precise motion, they still need manual programming to work automatically. 

Taking humanoid robots as an example, the most advanced such robots in the top lab of the world are still imperfect. Technically said, for example, these robots still have problems in aspects such as navigation and obstacle avoidance. Even Sophia, the first "robot citizen" in history, couldn't live without the connecting cable to keep her "alive". 

Therefore, there is still a long way to go before an AI robot can beat a sportsperson. But when the day comes, it could also mean human beings could have a serious crises in two aspects: taking away love and causing casualties in war.

In addition to job competition, AI robots are most likely to take away the "love" of human beings. In March 2017, Mr Zheng Jiajia, an AI engineer "married" his robotic girlfriend in Zhejiang Province, east China. Considering the unbalanced, male-heavy population in the future of China, more and more bachelors could find it hard to meet the right woman. If the humanoid robot can be as smart as a human sportsperson and have human-like skin, it could become a nice choice than two humans living together. Furthermore, the robot may be more adorable and charming than humans in the future. 

In 2017, a pair of emotional robots, named "Ren Sisi" and "Ren Xiangxiang," attracted much attention. They not only looked like real people, but also have the same actions and expressions as human beings do. 

According to the statistical data of YouGov released in September 2017, in the U.S., 18 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 said that it was totally morally acceptable for people to use a humanoid robot designed for sex. The future of mankind will have to face the love crisis from AI.

In the future, the AI that beats human athletes could instantly become a robot warrior. The U.S. National Research Council has predicted that the core weapon of the 21st century is the unmanned combat system. This prediction has gradually become a reality. One of the well-known military humanoid robotic prototypes is the Atlas, which was able to drive a utility vehicle at the site, remove debris blocking an entry, use a tool to break through a concrete panel, and connect a fire hose to a standpipe. In 2016, Russia also launched a humanoid robot called Fedor, which can hold two pistols with both hands at the same time, and shoot with high precision. 

Until now, although few of the military robots can complete combat missions independently, in the future, robot warriors will replace human soldiers. However, when AI defeats human beings in both mental and physical strength, we have no reason to believe that they will obey the will of the past and are willing to be under the charge of humanity.

Stephen Hawking has warned that robots may evolve faster than humans, and their ultimate goals will be unpredictable. Therefore, when human beings try to make AI more and more like themselves, they must also be aware of the disaster that could come with them. From our own love to war, we may have no way to escape the challenges from the AI.

When you look around, you will find AI has already become part of your life. It is the invisible guider that directs us through traffic, finds the right meaning in our mistyped words, and determines what we should buy, watch, and read. AI intersects with every aspect of our lives. Everyone has their own opinions on AI, but one thing they may all agree: AI is not only a tech trend - it is totally a new era, and we are in the midst of significant transformation.

In a few days, this year's Boao Forum for Asia will be held in south China's Hainan province, with a major topic involving the AI development. Stay tuned to CGTN for the latest insights. 

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