ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) is starting to become quite a big deal, so much so that Google's big boss Sundar Pichai reckons it's "more profound" than fire or electricity for humanity.
That's a mighty large claim, given fire is pretty much the reason we're not all freezing to death, and Google wouldn't be around without Benjamin Franklin messing around with a kite and a key in a lightning storm.
But Pichai made the bold statement at a show hosted by Ari Melber of MSNBC and Recode's Kara Swisher, touting AI as, "one of the most important things that humanity is working on".
"It's more profound than, I don't know, electricity or fire," he said, highlighting how the way that humans figured out how to harness fire and overcome its dangers is similar to how AI can benefit people once its role and effect on society has been figured out.
While Pichai thinks AI could help with some pretty heavy stuff, such as assisting in researching a cure for cancer, he noted that it needs to be approached in a balanced way given that the advancement of AI could do away with some jobs.
"It's fair to be worried about AI," Pichai said. "We want to be thoughtful about it."
Such a train of thought from a chief executive of arguably one of the most powerful companies in the world won't sit too well with robot-fearing folks like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and the constant quote-machine of tech SteveWozniakk. But those keen to get stuck in with AI, like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, would likely approve of Pichai's viewpoint.
Of course, that's if the robots don't rise up and destroy humanity.
We're not convinced that having smart machines and Google Assistant is quite as profound as the control of fire which helped humanity evolve to where we are now at least some 600,000 years ago and prevented early to current humans from hurling up their meals.
And knock-off the electricity to a load of deep learning neural networks and your AI is pretty much borked.
But scrape off the hyperbole from Pichai's quotes and he does raise a clear point that the research and development is advancing pretty swiftly, and the world needs to consider its potential for good and harm.
We may be some distance from truly intelligence systems, but even pretty smart systems could be ready to shake stuff up before too long. µ
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