California’s Senate last week advanced a bill that would force Amazon (AMZN) to reveal details behind the productivity-tracking algorithm used in its warehouses; meanwhile, Facebook (FB) this week faced criticism over a Wall Street Journal report finding it knows its Instagram feed makes some teenage girls feel worse about themselves.
These developments make up a backlash not necessarily against big tech, so much as its algorithms, which use artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt performance for individual users or employees.
In a new interview, AI expert Kai-Fu Lee — who worked as an executive at Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Apple (AAPL), and Microsoft (MSFT) — explained the top four dangers of burgeoning AI technology: externalities, personal data risks, inability to explain consequential choices, and warfare.
“The single largest danger is autonomous weapons,” he says.
“That’s when AI can be trained to kill, and more specifically trained to assassinate,” adds Lee, the co-author of a new book entitled “AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future.” “Imagine a drone that can fly itself and seek specific people out either with facial recognition or cell signals or whatever.”
‘It changes the future of warfare’
A ban on autonomous weapons has drawn support from 30 countries, though an in-depth report commissioned by Congress advised the U.S. to oppose a ban, since it could prevent the country from using weapons already in its possession.
In 2015, prominent figures in tech like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, as well as thousands of AI researchers, signed an open letter calling for a ban on such weapons.
Autonomous weapons will transform warfare since their affordability and precision will make it easier to wreak havoc and near-impossible to identify who committed the crime, Lee said.
“I think that changes the future of terrorism, because no longer are terrorists potentially losing their lives to do something bad,” he says. “It also allows a terrorist group to use 10,000 of these drones to perform something as terrible as genocide,” he says.