Quick Class 14 – The threats of Artificial Intelligence – B1/B2

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1)  Match the words and definitions*


a)    Wonder1)    Assemble, collect, accumulate; come together.
b)    Mesmerize2)    Probability, odds, possibility.
c)    Gather3)    Imperfect, faulty, damaged.
d)    Likelihood4)    Feeling of surprise or admiration that you have when you experience something beautiful, unusual or unexpected. (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary).
e)    Flawed5)    To completely hold someone’s attention; fascinate, dazzle, enchant.


2)  Discuss the following:


  • How do you think A.I. has been helpful and/or harmful up to now?
  • How do you envision the future of A.I.?


3)  Listen to the audio and answer the following questions:


  • What are the movie plots described?
  • What are some the examples given of how A.I could be used (or use itself) in the future?
  • What is proposed in relation to preventing A.I. from causing harm to human beings?


4) Now read the transcript below and check your answers:


The threats of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has long been a source of wonder to creative minds in Pop culture. The movie industry in particular has showed us what the future of A.I. could look like, often in terrifying ways. For instance, the artificial mind that takes over the world in the Terminator series. Or in the 2015 movie Ex-Machina, in which a very advanced robot with the ability of learning and making complex decisions, and which is also very convincing as a woman, toys with the protagonist’s feelings to get exactly what she wants. And of course, The Matrix and 2001, a Space Odyssey… In Spielberg’s classic A.I., a futuristic tale of a robot boy that wants to become a real boy, so he can be loved by his human mom, we are left mesmerized by how complex and deeply emotional our connection to Artificial Intelligence may become.

All these movies focus on the dark side of intelligent technology because they follow a basic premise, that is, once we create a truly intelligent machine capable of learning by itself and amplifying its knowledge and possibilities, much like humans do, but better and faster, what is to stop it from replacing us entirely?

Some scientists, like Doctor Juergen Schmidhuber, go as far as stating that the future looks very much like a world dominated by machines completely in charge of their own reproduction, learning abilities, traveling, resource-gathering and everything else that an intelligence obsessed with improving itself constantly would do. It is as if we were witnessing the beginning of a new form of life evolving before our eyes. To some, this sounds a bit too romantic and actually dangerous.

Peter Hass, a robotics researcher, is much more skeptical about A.I. When it comes to the A.I. that we currently have working for us, he mentions examples of how technology is deciding real things for us, such as the likelihood of a criminal offender to commit a new crime once released, as it already happens in the United States, or whether or not someone should be able to get a loan at the bank. Self-driving cars, facial recognition, are other examples, among many. The problem with all these techs is that they are still flawed. And it is very common that the programmers who wrote the codes to allow some learning ability for the AI just don’t know how exactly how the system made a certain decision instead of another.

Hass believes that we should advance a political agenda to force regulations and full transparency for A.I. technologies not only to avoid that people and companies with bad intentions are behind them, but also to guarantee the freedom and survival of the human species.

*Answers to exercise 1: 1-d, 2-e, 3-a, 4-b, 5-c

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