Warning: Artificial Intelligence Arms Race

More than 1,000 experts in the artificial intelligence industry and other fields have put their names down on a letter pushing for an outright ban on research involving autonomous weapon systems. The warning doesn’t include a call for prohibiting technology like cruise missiles or drones, as those require humans making targeting decisions behind the scenes. Instead, the authors of the letter argue that the central problem is that AI weapons will likely be feasible in the near future and would count as the third revolution in warfare.

The second revolution occurred on July 16, 1945 at Trinity in Alamogordo, NM. Twelve days prior, on July 4, 1945, the Manhattan Project scientist signed a petition taking a moral stand on the use of the atomic bomb. Well, 2084 recorded nuclear test bombs later we finally agreed to a ban on above ground testing and eventually all testing (except North Korea and probably Iran).

The AI letter points out that prohibition aren’t a hopeless task, since similar results have been achieved in the chemical/biological warfare field. Some countries aren’t convinced of the threat AI weapons pose. In April 2015 at a UN conference, the UK pushed back against a proposed ban. The logical reason for this is because they are more advanced with the technology in their humanoid robot R&D. England already has one of the early cognitive robots and is on their way with androids which are based on advanced AI. Could an android be a military weapon? Yes but not likely because there are other bio-inspired robotics that would be more efficient. For example, a swarm of robotic insects could be used without detection for selective destruction, most likely human beings.

Okay, enough of the dark side of robotics. There is a very expansive good side as well. When researchers used to try to diagnose and treat diseases, they would often search for one mutation on a single gene that was causing the problem. Or maybe they would look for average effects of a mutation that led to a disease across the entire population. But these approaches ignored the complexities and specifics that truly give rise to disease — demographic information, proteins, multi-gene interactions, environmental effects, and a whole host of other facets.

AI could make precision medicine a reality, since it will hopefully one day be able to identify the unique characteristics an individual has that could lead to certain diseases, and how to treat them. AI can tease out interactions from big health data that is emerging from the ability to quickly sequence entire genomes and gather more molecular information than ever before.

“That’s what precision medicine is all about. Each of us is different and each of us is genetically unique, so each of us should have a treatment that’s tailored to our individual genetic makeup and our individual environmental history,” said Jason H. Moore, Chief of the Division of Informatics at the University of Pennsylvania. “So I think that’s where artificial intelligence has a very important role to play, is being able to put together multiple genetic and environmental factors to identify the important subgroups.”

Once the disease is identified, the good AI will be used with nano-robotics to further diagnose and eventually treat the disease with precise drugs or radiation. Health AI is essentially getting computers to think about genomics, diseases, and treatments like humans do but in a much faster (at least 1,000x), more powerful way, and on a larger scale. Take the same concept and apply it to a cognitive humanoid and you end up with a humanoid/android. Hopefully androids will be man’s best friend and not it’s worst enemy.

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