The Future that “AI” Will Bring

Public Relations Office        May 30, 2017

Kenzo Hamano Professor, School of Humanities (Philosophy of Mind, Bioethics, Political Philosophy)

Kenzo Hamano Professor, School of Humanities

Seventeenth-century French philosopher, René Descartes, believed that the world and humans were composed of two diametrically opposing natures – the body and the mind. However, as the great strides made in the natural sciences changed our image of the world, the belief in the mind’s existence as a special kind of thing lost its strength significantly. Nevertheless, this does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the mind is no more than a product of the imagination. What we should take note of is the sophistication of the behavioral patterns that living human beings display in response to diverse circumstances. It is this that makes us want to say that the mind exists. Moreover, these sophisticated patterns of behavior—yours, mine, that person’s—have a certain integrity that is unique to each of us. Many of those patterns are accompanied by a self-awareness and expression of emotion, sentiment, even passion. Any attempt to understand such complex, sophisticated patterns of behavior only from the perspective that they are merely the actions of a material thing runs the risk of hindering adequate understanding of living human beings and, in turn, their psychological characteristics, and of diminishing the value of those characteristics.

What I want to emphasize is that humans are exceptionally interesting and precious creatures that carry with them 3.8 billion years of bio-evolutionary history. The “mind” and words related to it are extremely useful in expressing and understanding the characteristics of that interesting and precious creature. Man was born, survived and flourished amongst the many transformations in the earth’s ecosystem, acquiring a wide range of abilities along the way. Described by Pascal as “a thinking reed,” man is a complex being, possessing both qualities to take pride in and qualities that are brittle and that break and corrupt.

With any technology, there is always an accompanying danger that it will be abused. The technology of artificial intelligence (AI) has great potential, but that potential should be developed always with its co-existence with man, that interesting and precious being, in mind. When we look at the situation today, with workers being treated as mere things, our response to climate changes, one of the greatest threats to the human race, has been so slow, and control of nuclear technology is becoming increasingly precarious, we can only hope that the exploration of AI’s potential will be based on a sense of gratitude and wonder towards life-nurturing nature and an attitude that is replete with love for life, particularly towards man as a living being. To realize this, such exploration must be monitored with the cooperation of citizens and experts. The quality of the outcomes of AI will be irrevocably linked to the quality of our democracy.

Nagisa Ishiura Professor, School of Science and Technology (system program development and testing, VLSI design automation)

Nagisa Ishiura Professor, School of Science and Technology

The recent progress in artificial intelligence technology has been astonishing, from go masters being defeated by AI, to self-driving vehicles becoming a practical reality. However, any claims in the process of these developments that AI will one day exceed human intelligence seem, somehow, less than convincing.

Today’s AI is, as described by the American philosopher, John Searle, “weak AI,” and is no more than a single system of computer programming used to solve specific problems. It can use reasoning and learning to make more sophisticated calculations and judgments, but it is not an intelligence that “thinks.”

To realize “strong AI” that thinks for itself, completely different systems would be required, and we have nowhere near enough computational capacity per unit volume to achieve such systems. Today, research is underway into the simulation of the entire brain at the chemical reaction level, and the implementation of the brain’s computational structure with electrical circuits. There is also research being undertaken into new computational structures, completely different from electrical circuits.

Once, after many breakthroughs, intelligence that transcends that of the human race does emerge, that intelligence itself will develop even higher intelligence. As this cycle continues to repeat itself, it will soon grow into “superintelligence” so great that humans will start to look like plants or rocks. The unfathomable technological revolution that this will bring is known as “Technological Singularity,” and there is no predicting what will happen on this earth beyond that point.

It sounds like science fiction, but American inventor Ray Kurzwell predicts (in complete earnestness) in one of his books that this could become a reality in just thirty years, a prediction that has become known as “the 2045 problem.” The idea that about 2 million years of human intelligence’s domination of the earth could come to an end just thirty years from now is an all too shocking scenario.

This prompts us to think deeply about a variety of questions, such as what is intelligence, what is man’s reason for existence, and how should humanity handle such rapidly advancing science and technology. Perhaps nothing will actually happen in thirty years’ time, but who knows what will happen 100 years from now. I hope that you will all take this opportunity to think about these issues, and perhaps to prepare yourselves a little.