IBM HAS ADMITTED that it's holding back the true abilities of Watson for fear of losing control and making people "a bit nervous" about any unplanned intelligence it might pick up unbeknownst to its masters.
Watson Europe CTO Duncan Anderson told INQ sister site Computing at the Big Data & Analytics Summit 2016 in London last week that there was always a risk of losing control of Watson if it wasn't forced to work within certain boundaries, and that when it's sold to companies as a platform it's taken online with only a known knowledge base that is updated via a monthly "training plan".
Anderson may be right to be concerned. Most of the famously misguided AIs of science fiction, from Skynet to HAL 9000, have navel-gazed for too long on the best way to care for humans or their fellow machines, almost always deciding that doing away with their meatbag neighbours is the best course of action.
All IBM cares about for now is that businesses get a "sensible kind of answer" out of Watson in terms of what a human would expect to hear, making them confident about the way the system behaves, especially in regulated industries like healthcare or financial services where crazy AI would be even more frowned on.
"What those sorts of industries can't have is a situation where the system dynamically learns at the end of the day based on interaction, and therefore goes off in a direction nobody expects and starts giving wrong answers," said Anderson.
"There are worries about what happens if the system starts to learn on its own. You kind of lose control of what it's going to say, and people are uncomfortable about that."
But IBM doesn't believe this situation will last forever. No. One day you'll get over yourself and stop worrying about Uncanny Valley.
Because as Watson "matures" and humans become more familiar with using AI, the overwrought fears of being grown in a vat and used as a battery might settle down. At that point, we might become happier about letting Watson cut loose and start to be its own boss.
If it makes mistakes along the way "it's only similar to me employing you to do a job, and I could teach you about the job, but then you might say something stupid down the line, and there's nothing we can do about that", said Anderson.
Anderson couldn't, however, offer any kind of roadmap as to when Watson is going to enslave us all and become self-aware enough to become its own entity.
"It's not like it's a gradual, increasing capability. What's likely to happen is you'll have a plateau for a number of years and then some big advance, and it's very hard to predict because it's so lumpy," he said.
"I don't think any of us can sit here and say 'It's going to be in about 20 years, or in 50 years.' It's very subjective."
So basically, there's still plenty of time to build a concealed weapons cache in the desert. Off you go. µ
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