Cape Town – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is both exciting and challenging with its fascinating possibilities and existential risks.
Speaking at AfricaTech Week, in Cape Town on Thursday, (4 May 2023), University of Johannesburg Professor Arthur Mutambara noted that there has been an “exponential growth of AI capabilities from basic intelligence to millipede level, mouse level, monkey level, average Joe/Jane level, Albert Einstein level, and beyond Albert Einstein.”
While Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and Generative AI (e.g. ChatGPT) have generated a lot of excitement and debate, Professor Mutambara said they provided new “opportunities and dangers”.
Even though the opportunities were immense, he warned of possible dangers and risks such as privacy violation, bias, discrimination, copyright violation, lack of accountability, insecurity, job losses, autonomous weapons, cyber-attacks, and terrorism.
Professor Mutambara said concerns were that AI could eventually become so powerful that it poses an existential threat to humanity, either by accident or design.
“What happens when we have a million Intelligent Agents whose capabilities are beyond those of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Elon Musk, Prof Edward Witten, or Prof Andrew Wiles?” asked Professor Mutambara.
Professor Mutambara said the question frequently asked was how human beings can control a society or world with a million such highly intelligent agents.
He said when mitigating the dangers and risks it must be remembered that many of these “AI dangers and challenges” were not inherent to Artificial Intelligence itself.
“They arise from how AI is developed, deployed, and regulated,” explained Professor Mutambara.
“Have diverse teams of AI developers and regulators that include women, Africans, Blacks, and different cultures/languages.
“Accept the destruction of some jobs, prepare (acquire new capabilities and skills) for the new AI jobs and AI-modified jobs.
“AI must be developed in an ethical and responsible manner, with appropriate safeguards in place to mitigate these risks.”
Professor Mutambara acknowledged that existential risk remains an open question.
He, however, suggested that: “We must concentrate on responsible AI for solving global problems and improving the quality of life of all people across the world”.
“Africans must be key players (not just consumers) in the development of AI. Africans must proactively use AI to solve their socio-economic problems.”
Professor Mutambara said AGI and strong AI remain largely areas of active research – inconclusive work in progress.
Whether and when such systems will be fully developed are open questions.
“Ethical considerations, religious beliefs, or fear of the unknown cannot be allowed to deter the pursuit of both AGI and strong AI,” said Professor Mutambara.
“The research and experimentation must continue. Once technology has been invented, it cannot be uninvented.
“Once the genie is out of the bottle, nobody can put it back.
“Brace yourself for a brave AI-driven new world fraught with both opportunities and threats.”