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Computers have taken over our livesits time to get it back

Messenger Predicting the future is a risky business. The Danish physicist Neils Bohr famously opined: Despite this, I confidently predict that machines will come to run our lives. US mathematician Claude Shannonone of the fathers of computation, wrote: So how can we be so sure? In November 2009, the entire air traffic control system of the United States crashed, causing chaos to travellers.

The failure of a single router board.

Are Computers Already Smarter Than Humans?

And in August 2003, a powercut in the United States put 55 million people in the dark. Faulty software on a single computer that failed to detect what should have been a harmless local outage. And there are many more examples. When computers fail, we see just how dependent we have become on them.

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Historians will probably look back from the 22nd century and observe that the rise of machines became inevitable the day we first picked up a rock and started using it as a tool.

Computers are now embedded into almost every aspect of our lives.

In the 1980s, a bug in the software of the Therac-25 radiation therapy machine was directly responsible for at least five deaths. In 2007 in South Africa, a robotic anti-aircraft cannon accidentally killed nine people and injured 14 others.

Given these incidents and othersit is unsurprising there is concern in some quarters about the risk of giving up control to machines.

The Conversation

As a scientist, I welcome this discussion. Roman Yampolskiya computer scientist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, recently joined this debate with an article in the March issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies yes, such a scholarly tome does exist.

Yampolskiy proposed that any artificial intelligence we develop should be confined within a secure computing environment.

In practical terms, this could mean severely limiting the ability of the AI to interact with the outside world. Confining AI in this way would prevent harmful effects since the computer would not be able to take direct actions, only offer advice. This might sound like a good idea, but there are many arguments against this strategy. Where mankind has faced other, similar threats, confinement has been a controversial option. For instance, while the smallpox virus is now confined to just two laboratories around the world, many believe this leaves us exposed to bioterrorist threats.

And cinema is full of examples where artificial intelligence manages to escape any such controls — think of films such as Blade RunnerThe Matrix series and The Terminator series. Sure, these are just films, but fiction has a terrible habit of becoming fact. Our imaginations are often the best tool we have for predicting the future. Second, confining AI is not desirable.

7 ways computers will change our lives

Artificial intelligence can help us tackle many of the environmental, financial and other problems facing society today. If you isolate a child, they will struggle to learn and develop intelligence. Third, confining AI creates a false sense of security.

Isaac Asimov had the right idea here: