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philosopher's avatar

Can anyone really predict the future of AI and humanity?

Asked by philosopher (9165points) March 16th, 2012

This does fascinate me. I wonder how much may actually happen?
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22 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Anyone can predict anything. Accuracy may vary.
As for AI. I think it is inevitable.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t know, I just want to hook up with a lifelike cyborg woman, already.

Qingu's avatar

All I know is that I have trouble reading science fiction published before the 1990’s because none of those futuristic utopias or dystopias or what have you ever seem to have anything remotely resembling the Internet or a modern search engine.

Nullo's avatar

Generally, futurists look at current trends in technology and try to guess where the milestones will be. This means that they won’t see some things.

@Qingu It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Nobody saw the Internet coming. Most didn’t even see the PC coming. Ender’s Game, written in 1985, has an active world wide web, though not as public as the one we have now. And Mark Twain created a networkable device that he called a tele-electroscope, waaaay back around the turn of the century.

CWOTUS's avatar

Can anyone predict? Of course.

Can anyone do it accurately? Maybe. But among, say, 1000 different predictions about the future, each of them seeming more or less reasonable (whatever that means to you), how do you pick the one that’s going to be right?

Moreover, among predictions about our current state of affairs made in the 1990s, as @Qingu suggests, which ones got it right? How many were there? Would it have been the “reasonable” predictions that came true? Would a “reasonable” prognosticator during WWI have predicted where we are now, less than 100 years later? Didn’t think so.

I wouldn’t go too long on too many options.

By the time you finish trying to understand the pile of predictions you’d have in front of you, they’d be history or we would.

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo, I would like to see a study that broadly surveys science fiction concepts, technological predictions, etc, and reviews (1) which ones exist and (2) which ones exist in the same manner as predicted (i.e. flying cars do exist today, but they are impractical so nobody uses them).

I would be curious to see what sorts of patterns emerge from such a survey.

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu You could do one yourself, if you’ve got the time. The pattern that I’ve noticed in my reading is that most of the concepts are either romantic – sailing the stars, etc. – or really cool, like Star Trek’s PADDs. Then people pursue the idea to the extent of its feasibility – the various space programs and tablet PCs.

Qingu's avatar

Interstellar, and certainly intergalactic, space travel is actually one of of the technologies that I think is going to turn out to be the least feasible, and it’s also the most ubiquotous in the literature.

I will be amazed if we get to Alpha Centauri in my lifetime.

But I’d be happy to eat my words. :) (In either the “we’ll develop FTL travel in 100 years” way or the “we’ll develop practical immortality so I’ll live the 100,000 years it will take to get there” way)

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu To the extend of its feasibility, or sustained interest. It’s been about 50 years and we’ve not gotten anybody further out than the Moon, so I doubt we’re ever going to get to Alpha Centauri. We’d need concurrent development of terraforming technologies, or there’d be little good colonizing any of our local planets.

ragingloli's avatar

Humans have not gone further than the Moon because there was no political incentive to try, after the Soviets lost interest in space. Not really a matter of feasibility, but motivation.

6rant6's avatar

When we have AI, we’ll be able to depend more on predictions being accurate.

Qingu's avatar

I just think the distances involved are on a completely different scale than going to the moon or even to Neptune.

Neptune is 4 billion km from the sun; Alpha Centauri is 40 trillion km… 10,000 times as far. Which is to say, whatever you think is the shortest trip to Neptune feasible (current trips take around 20 years), multiply it by 10,000.

Nullo's avatar

@ragingloli I feel that motivation factors into a feasibility assessment. Which, of course, feeds back into the motivation. Nasty little catch-22.

Jeruba's avatar

People can guess and speculate and project and extrapolate. They cannot read the future.

wundayatta's avatar

People love to try to predict, but more and more, I find people’s predictions unconvincing. It seems like the impact of these advances in technology is either lagging behind our capabilities or it just isn’t as earthshaking as we thought it might be.

I feel like I am in a race against time. It is possible that they will develop the medical technologies that will keep me from having a heart attack, and will reduce my weight and fix my knees and my brain, so I can live to be 120 or whatever it was I always had in mind, but will they get here in time?

It seems like technology is advancing, and knowledge is advancing, but it also turns out that there is so much more we need to know in order to do what we want to do. They can’t even figure out if my skin rashes are from allergies, and if so, to what? It’s fucking skin, fer chrissake! How hard can that be?

So I remain skeptical. Maybe we’ll get brain implants and instant access to all recorded human knowledge, but will that really help? Most of our problems have to do with what we don’t know, and that isn’t contained in recorded knowledge. Recorded knowledge helps for problems that have already been solved. It helps for finding answers we know.

however most of our problems are new ones. We get the answers to old ones pretty efficiently, I think. Knowledge is shared quickly. That’s the not problem.

The problem is what we don’t know, and finding what we don’t know is as slow as ever, it seems. Yes, we can sift through a gazillion possibilities in an hour now, instead of one thousand, but we still aren’t moving forward fast enough. Will we ever? Maybe it’s a matter of perception, and it’s impossible. The faster we can go, the slower it seems we are going.

philosopher's avatar

Actually Asimov did speak of a device that people used to communicate in one of his books. Which sounds like a more advanced Internet. I can’t recall the name of the book. These people had robots do everything and children were born in Labs.

HungryGuy's avatar

We’re on the verge of creating computers that will mimic intelligence and self-awareness. But we won’t make a computer that’s truly sentient and self-aware until we discover the secret to what causes self-awareness. My hunch is that secret will remain elusive for a long time.

flutherother's avatar

We must be really bad at predicting the future or we would never have got ourselves into the mess we are in. There are no limits to AI it will develop in unforeseen ways. Perhaps one day it will be able to predict the future the way we now forecast the weather. If civilization can last that long.

6rant6's avatar

@HungryGuy All we have to do is define self-awareness and someone will develop a computer that returns the result you need. Offering a prize would definitely speed things along. There isn’t any thing out there called “self-awareness” that we need to find. It’s a construct of human beings. We get to decide what it means. That’s not to say we’ll agree, of course.

CWOTUS's avatar

The funny thing about the future – one of many funny things, that is – is that some of the changes will be so mundane, such head-slappers.

For example, a lot of people think that burger-flipping and “Do you want fries with that?” are the most mundane jobs available in today’s economy. By and large, they’re right. Those are low-skill, low-tech jobs that pretty much anyone with limited motor skills and half a brain can do.

Guess which jobs will be the next ones to be routinely automated? (A lot of factory jobs already have been.) The jobs that currently pay relatively high wages compared to the skill it takes to do them will be high on the list of “to be replaced”. Jobs such as flipping burgers, pushing brooms, running cash registers and the like, maybe even cleaning motel rooms, most cashiers and shelf-stockers – those jobs will vanish like, well, like telephone operators and “secretaries”. Remember them? There may be some boutique positions, but in 20 years, people will be reminiscing about “fast food jobs” they had as kids, and their kids will be looking at them like they’re from Mars. “You did that kind of scut work? Yourself?”

When that happens, then we’ll probably have calls for drastically higher minimum wage laws (because of the relatively higher unemployment that will result from advances in automation) ... and the pace of automation will jump exponentially. We’ll leapfrog past “surgeons using robotic assistance” to “automated surgeons” – which I can envision when the motors and the rules-based AI and neural networking all improve.

“Creating useful and interesting things for people to do” may become a rewarding growth industry of its own.

mattbrowne's avatar

Too many variables. So, no.

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