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.