2015-05-14 Genie 经济学人赏析

The dawn of artificial intelligence


Powerful computers will reshape humanity’s future. How to ensure the promise outweighs the perils

强大的电脑将重塑人类的未来 如何保证利大于弊?

“THE development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Stephen Hawking warns. Elon Musk fears that the development of artificial intelligence, or AI, may be the biggest existential threat humanity faces. Bill Gates urges people to beware of it.

史蒂芬·霍金警告说:"人工智能全面发展可能导致人类的灭绝。"伊隆·马斯克担心,人工智能(Artificial intelligence,简写成Al)的发展或许会成为人类现存的最大威胁。比尔盖茨也催促人们警惕人工智能。

Dread that the abominations people create will become their masters, or their executioners, is hardly new. But voiced by a renowned cosmologist, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and the founder of Microsoft—hardly Luddites—and set against the vast investment in AI by big firms like Google and Microsoft, such fears have taken on new weight. With supercomputers in every pocket and robots looking down on every battlefield, just dismissing them as science fiction seems like self-deception. The question is how to worry wisely.


You taught me language and...


The first step is to understand what computers can now do and what they are likely to be able to do in the future. Thanks to the rise in processing power and the growing abundance of digitally available data, AI is enjoying a boom in its capabilities (see article). Today’s “deep learning” systems, by mimicking the layers of neurons in a human brain and crunching vast amounts of data, can teach themselves to perform some tasks, from pattern recognition to translation, almost as well as humans can. As a result, things that once called for a mind—from interpreting pictures to playing the video game “Frogger”—are now within the scope of computer programs. DeepFace, an algorithm unveiled by Facebook in 2014, can recognise individual human faces in images 97% of the time.


Crucially, this capacity is narrow and specific. Today’s AI produces the semblance of intelligence through brute number-crunching force, without any great interest in approximating how minds equip humans with autonomy, interests and desires. Computers do not yet have anything approaching the wide, fluid ability to infer, judge and decide that is associated with intelligence in the conventional human sense.


Briefing: AI is improving rapidly, but remains more useful than terrifying


Yet AI is already powerful enough to make a dramatic difference to human life. It can already enhance human endeavour by complementing what people can do. Think of chess, which computers now play better than any person. The best players in the world are not machines however, but what Garry Kasparov, a grandmaster, calls “centaurs”: amalgamated teams of humans and algorithms. Such collectives will become the norm in all sorts of pursuits: supported by AI, doctors will have a vastly augmented ability to spot cancers in medical images; speech-recognition algorithms running on smartphones will bring the internet to many millions of illiterate people in developing countries; digital assistants will suggest promising hypotheses for academic research; image-classification algorithms will allow wearable computers to layer useful information onto people’s views of the real world.


Even in the short run, not all the consequences will be positive. Consider, for instance, the power that AI brings to the apparatus of state security, in both autocracies and democracies. The capacity to monitor billions of conversations and to pick out every citizen from the crowd by his voice or her face poses grave threats to liberty.


And even when there are broad gains for society, many individuals will lose out from AI. The original “computers” were drudges, often women, who performed endless calculations for their higher-ups. Just as transistors took their place, so AI will probably turf out whole regiments of white-collar workers. Education and training will help and the wealth produced with the aid of AI will be spent on new pursuits that generate new jobs. But workers are doomed to 7.dislocations.

即使社会收益上涨, 许多人也会因为人工智能的广泛应用而失去工作。起初,“计算员”可以算个苦力活——以前通常是女性担任,她们替上司做没完没了的计算。她们因晶体管的诞生而被取代,同样,人工智能也很可能让整个白领阶层失业。教育和培训会有所帮助,借助人工智能创造出的财富将被用于新的领域,而这些新的领域又会创造新的工作机会。但是工作者们注定要陷入迷茫和混乱。

Surveillance and dislocations are not, though, what worries Messrs Hawking, Musk and Gates, or what inspires a phalanx of futuristic AI films that Hollywood has recently unleashed onto cinema screens. Their concern is altogether more distant and more apocalyptic: the threat of autonomous machines with superhuman cognitive capacity and interests that conflict with those of Homo sapiens.


Such artificially intelligent beings are still a very long way off; indeed, it may never be possible to create them. Despite a century of poking and prodding at the brain, psychologists, neurologists, sociologists and philosophers are still a long way from an understanding of how a mind might be made—or what one is. And the business case for even limited intelligence of the general sort—the sort that has interests and autonomy—is far from clear. A car that drives itself better than its owner sounds like a 8.boon; a car with its own ideas about where to go, less so.


And the business case for even limited intelligence of the general sort—the sort that has interests and autonomy—也远不清楚. 一辆自动驾驶汽车,如果比它的主人还要开的好,听起来似乎是个进步;而一辆自己决定开到哪的汽车,听起来就不是那么让人开心了。

...I know how to curse


But even if the prospect of what Mr Hawking calls “full” AI is still distant, it is prudent for societies to plan for how to cope. That is easier than it seems,9. not least because humans have been creating autonomous entities with superhuman capacities and unaligned interests for some time. Government bureaucracies, markets and armies: all can do things which unaided, unorganised humans cannot. All need autonomy to function, all can take on life of their own and all can do great harm if not set up in a just manner and governed by laws and regulations.


These parallels should comfort the fearful; they also suggest concrete ways for societies to develop AI safely. Just as armies need civilian oversight, markets are regulated and bureaucracies must be transparent and accountable, so AI systems must be open to scrutiny. Because systems designers cannot foresee every set of circumstances, there must also be an off-switch. These constraints can be put in place without compromising progress.From the nuclear bomb to traffic rules, mankind has used technical ingenuity and legal strictures to constrain other powerful innovations.

这些相似点让那些担忧焦虑者稍感安心;他们还建议人们采取具体措施以便安全发展人工智能;正如军队需要民众的监督,市场需要管控,官员行事应当制度透明、有理有据,人工智能系统也应当接受公众的仔细审查。因为系统的设计者不可能预见到每一种情形, 必须设置一些可以阻止状况的关卡。将这些关卡摆在合适的位置,它们就不会阻碍进步。从核爆炸到交通规则,人类通过技术创新和法律条款限制了其他的强大发明。

The spectre of eventually creating an autonomous non-human intelligence is so extraordinary that it risks overshadowing the debate. Yes, there are perils. But they should not obscure the huge benefits from the dawn of AI.


From the print edition: Leaders


1.spell:spell trouble/disatster/danger etc.  if a situation or action spells trouble etc, it makes you expect trouble etc: The lack of rain could spell disaster for farmers.

2.endeavour:[formal] an attempt to do something new or difficult

3.norm: the usual or normal situation, way of doing something etc

be/become the norm

a departure from the norm 一反常态

4.pursuit:[countable usually plural]  an activity such as a sport or hobby, which you spend a lot of time doing

5.augment:[formal] to increase the value, amount, effectiveness etc of something: Any surplus was sold to augment their income.

6.regiment:[formal] a large number of people or things

7.dislocation:[v]dislocate. to stop a system, plan etc. from working or continuing in the normal way

These policies could cause severe economic and social dislocation.这些政策可能引起严重的经济和社会混乱。

8.boon:something that is very useful and makes your life a lot easier or better.

The new software will prove a boon to Internet users.这种新软件将会对互联网用户大有益处。

9.not least:尤其是,特别是

10.bureaucracy:[uncountable and countable] the officials who are employed rather than elected to do the work of a government,business etc

11.just: 1.morally right and fair: Henry sincerely believed that he was fighting a just war.

2.deserved by someone:

a just reward for their loyal service

What would be a just punishment for such a crime?


13.the spectre of something: something that people are afraid of because it may affect them badly:The recession is again raising the spectre of unemployment.



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