Elon Musk has a fatal attraction to artificial intelligence (AI). On the one hand, AI will play an important role in things like future autonomous driving systems. On the other hand, Musk frets about the horrific implications of AI controlled warfare. He has referred to the advent of artificial intelligence as “summoning the Devil.”
An article in The Verge about how companies are trying to harness basic AI technology to help them sell products has gotten Musk’s attention. Soon, bots will be everywhere, The Verge story says. “We’ll buy flowers with bots, we’ll order car service with bots, we’ll plan vacations with bots. We’ll engage with more brands, more effectively, all with bots.”
To be fair, the bots The Verge is talking about are really little more than a new type of user interface that allows customers to communicate directly with computers. When ordering a cheeseburger at a local fast food restaurant, we will soon be able to speak our preference to a bot rather than dealing with a real person or pressing an icon on a touchscreen. That may seem fairly innocuous. Below is a video of such a bot that is under development at Burger King.
Microsoft is leading the way. It unveiled a host of new bots at its annual Build conference on March 30. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s suggests that the new paradigm is “conversation as a platform.” Users will be able to interact with the bots using natural language, directing them to complete certain tasks.
Microsoft’s first foray into the bot-sphere didn’t go so well. Twitter users turned the technology back on itself earlier in March. Within a day, they trained Microsoft’s Tay to become a venomous, racist, neo-Aryan, much to the chagrin of Microsoft. Elon Musk took to Twitter early on Monday to respond to the latest article on The Verge.
Will be interesting to see what the meantime to Hitler is for these bots. Only took Microsoft's Tay a day. https://t.co/8jEazt0nYf
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 18, 2016
Clearly, the road to an AI future is fraught with danger. One of the reasons Musk and Sam Altman created OpenAI last year was to channel the development of AI technology so that is serves the better interests of mankind. That may be a tall order.