In conversations about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), the idea that machines will soon take over our whole lives and even eliminate jobs, increasing the numbers of people unemployed, usually comes into play.

SwissCognitiveUnless you’re talking with Geoffrey Hinton .

One of the biggest names in AI, Hinton is known as the godfather of AI for his pioneering work in neural networks. He is now professor of computer science at the University of Toronto and part of the Google Brain project.

In his book, Architects of Intelligence: The Truth About AI from the People Building It , Martin Ford talks with Hinton about the economic and social ramifications of AI, and Hinton says that dramatically increasing productivity should be a good thing.

According to Hinton, “People are looking at the technology as if the technological advances are the problem. The problem is in the social systems, and whether we’re going to have a social system that shares fairly, or one that focuses all the improvement on the 1% and treats the rest of the people like dirt. That’s nothing to do with technology.”

This is another take on the ethics involved in developing AI. There are design decisions and regulations to consider, but we must also take into account who will receive the bulk of the advantages AI promises.

“What governments ought to do is put mechanisms in place so that when people act in their own self-interest, it helps everybody,” says Hinton. “High taxation is one such mechanism: When people get rich, everybody else gets helped by the taxes. I certainly agree that there’s a lot of work to be done in making sure that AI benefits everybody.”

He continues, “I hope the rewards will outweigh the downsides, but I don’t know whether they will, and that’s an issue of social systems, not with the technology.”

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Like Hinton, Databricks co founder and CEO Ali Ghodsi, says the most advanced work that is being done with AI is not trying to replace the human brain but augmenting it and helping humans to accomplish challenging tasks. AI, with its programmed algorithms, is making little progress in anything that requires creativity and is not super-structured. It’s no match for a human, who can offer endless reflections on the decision making process.

“I don’t think AI at its core is bad for humanity,” says Ghodsi, pointing out that it is not decreasing the amount of resources on the planet, or the food, education, and healthcare available to people.[…]

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