Will Cloud Computing Make the Benefits of Artificial General Intelligence Accessible to Everyone?
Artificial intelligence plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Almost all smart phones are equipped with intelligent personal assistants, hospitals use computer vision to make more accurate diagnoses, customer service and sales representatives are being replaced with machines, and companies such as Amazon predict the product that you will buy next. So far, however, artificial intelligence has only been applied to specific tasks; there is no artificial intelligence that can perform a wide variety of unrelated jobs. This form of artificial intelligence that can only be applied to very specific problems is called artificial narrow intelligence; it does not reason about complex concepts or understand abstract ideas.
Progress in artificial intelligence has, so far, been driven by three main factors: increasing computing resources, more data, and better algorithms. As the number of transistors per square inch on an integrated circuit and the amount of digital data continue to double every two years, and researchers come up with better algorithms, artificial intelligence capabilities will likely grow significantly over the next decades (https://www.economist.com/news/business/21717430-success-nvidia-and-its-new-computing-chip-signals-rapid-change-it-architecture, http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=1330462). In a recent survey among artificial intelligence researchers, the median estimate of when an artificial intelligence will be as capable as the human brain was 2040 (http://www.nickbostrom.com/papers/survey.pdf). This type of artificial intelligence that can do most important intellectual tasks as well as a human is called artificial general intelligence.
As artificial intelligence becomes more capable, more jobs will be automated and unemployment will rapidly rise (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/). The world economy will be increasingly dominated by a few large technology firms such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Tencent, Alibaba, and Apple (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608095/it-pays-to-be-smart/). As unemployment becomes more common and power is in the hands of a small technology elite, we need to consider how the benefits of new technological developments can still be made accessible to everyone (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/). How do we ensure that artificial general intelligence brings advantages to every member of society instead of only a handful of people?
As mentioned above one of the major factors that currently prevents us from creating artificial general intelligence is computing power. In order to develop an artificial intelligence with capabilities similar to those of the human brain we will likely at least need access to similar computing resources. The human brain is estimated to perform roughly 10 quadrillion (10^16) calculations per seconds (https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html). For comparison the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-2 (天河二号), performs about 34 quadrillion computations per second (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/21/technology/china-tops-list-of-fastest-computers-again.html, https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html). The Tianhe 2 costs $390 million to build, consumes roughly 24 megawatts of power, and takes up 720 square meters of space; not exactly a device that is accessible to everyone (https://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/06/supercomputers, https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html).
For cutting edge artificial intelligence to become widespread we need to consider how we can best make these massive computing resources available to all people and all organizations. Cloud computing might be the solution. Cloud computing makes it possible for any organization or individual to get access to on-demand large scale computing services that can be used to run artificial intelligence program. Companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google can have multiple instantiations of their artificial general intelligence run on their clouds that serve customers on their desktops, mobile phones, augmented/virtual reality headsets, or even ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces (https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnsonpierr/2017/06/15/with-the-public-clouds-of-amazon-microsoft-and-google-big-data-is-the-proverbial-big-deal/#386727c22ac3, https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21719774-do-human-beings-need-embrace-brain-implants-stay-relevant-elon-musk-enters). Since artificial intelligence learns when customers use it, the artificial intelligence will get smarter over time. Everyone will be able to tap into artificial intelligence on-demand. Hopefully, in this way all members of society will be able to benefit of artificial general intelligence and perhaps even a subsequent artificial super intelligence.
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