Scientists look at how A.I. will change our lives by 2030

Transportation, education, home security will all be affected by smart machines

By the year 2030, artificial intelligence (A.I.) will have changed the way we travel to work and to parties, how we take care of our health and how our kids are educated.

That’s the consensus from a panel of academic and technology experts taking part in Stanford University’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence.

Focused on trying to foresee the advances coming to A.I., as well as the ethical challenges they’ll bring, the panel yesterday released its first study.

The 28,000-word report, “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030,” looks at eight categories -- from employment to healthcare, security, entertainment, education, service robots, transportation and poor communities -- and tries to predict how smart technologies will affect urban life.

“We believe specialized A.I. applications will become both increasingly common and more useful by 2030, improving our economy and quality of life,” Peter Stone, a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the 17-member panel of international experts, said in a written statement. “But this technology will also create profound challenges, affecting jobs and incomes and other issues that we should begin addressing now to ensure that the benefits of A.I. are broadly shared.”

Late in 2014, Stanford researchers launched their One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, or AI100.

The university invited A.I. researchers, roboticists and other scientists to predict the effects of advancing machines that perceive, learn and reason on the way people live, work and communicate. Researchers are hoping that, by thinking ahead, they can anticipate the changes -- the benefits and the problems -- A.I. might bring, so scientists and law makers can be better prepared to handle them.

A.I. has taken it on the chin in recent years, with industry figures like physicist Stephen Hawking and high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk decrying the societal dangers of the technology.

Unlike Musk, who equated developing A.I. with summoning a demon, the A.I. report issued this week shows that scientists anticipate some problems but also numerous benefits with advancing the technology.

“A.I. technologies can be reliable and broadly beneficial,” said Barbara Grosz, a Harvard computer scientist and chair of the AI100 committee. “Being transparent about their design and deployment challenges will build trust and avert unjustified fear and suspicion.”

In the study, researchers said that when it comes to A.I. and transportation, autonomous vehicles and even aerial delivery drones could change both travel and life patterns in cities. The study also notes that home service robots won’t just clean but will offer security, while smart sensors will monitor people’s blood sugar and organ functions, robotic tutors will augment human instruction and A.I. will lead to new ways to deliver media in more interactive ways.

And while the report also notes that A.I. could improve services like food distribution in poor neighborhoods and analyze crime patterns, it’s not all positive.

For instance, A.I. could lead to significant changes in the workforce as robots and smart systems take over base-level jobs, like moving inventory in warehouses, scheduling meetings and even offering some financial advice.

However, A.I. also will open up new jobs, such as data analysts who will be needed to make sense of all the new information computers are amassing.

The study noted that work should begin now figuring out how to help people adapt as the economy undergoes rapid changes and existing jobs are lost and new ones created.

“Until now, most of what is known about A.I. comes from science fiction books and movies,” Stone said. “This study provides a realistic foundation to discuss how A.I. technologies are likely to affect society.”

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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