DeepMind was founded two years ago by 37-year-old neuroscientist and former teenage chess prodigy Demis Hassabis, along with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman Photo: AP
Artificial intelligence could lead to mass unemployment if computers develop the capacity to take over human work, experts warned days after it emerged that Google had beat competitors to buy a firm specialising in this kind of technology.
Dr Stuart Armstrong, from the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, gave the stark warning after it emerged that Google had paid £400m for the British artificial intelligence firm DeepMind.
He welcomed the web giant’s decision to set up an ethics board to safely develop and use artificial intelligence claiming the advances in technology carried a number of risks.
Mr Armstrong said computers had the potential to take over people’s jobs at a faster rate than new roles could be created.
He cited logistics, administration and insurance underwriting as professions that were particularly vulnerable to the development of artificial intelligence.
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He also warned about the implications for uncontrolled mass surveillance if computers were taught to recognise human faces.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “There’s a variety of short term risks for artificial intelligence, everyone knows about the autonomous drones.
“But there’s also the potential for mass surveillance, you don’t just have to recognise cat images, you could also recognise human faces and also mass unemployment in a variety of professions.”
He added: “We have some studies looking into which jobs are the most vulnerable and there’s quite a lot of them in logistics, administration, insurance underwriting but ultimately a huge swathe of jobs are potentially vulnerable to improved artificial intelligence.”
His concerns were backed up by Murray Shanahan, professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College London, who said: “I think it is a very good thing that Google has set up this ethics board and I think there certainly are some short term issues that we all need to be talking about.
“It’s very difficult to predict and that is of course a concern but in the past when we’ve developed new kinds of technologies then often they have created jobs at the same time as taking them over but it certainly is something we ought to be discussing.”
DeepMind was founded two years ago by 37-year-old neuroscientist and former teenage chess prodigy Demis Hassabis, along with Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman.
The company specialises in algorithms and machine learning for simulation, e-commerce and games.
It is also working in an area called Deep Learning in which machines are taught to see patterns from large quantities of data so computers could start to recognise objects from daily life such as cars or food products and even human faces.
It is believed Google will use DeepMind’s expertise to improve the functions of its current products such as the Google Glass and extend its current artificial intelligence work such as the development of self-driving cars.
Mr Shanahan said: “We all know that Google have got an interest in wearable computing with their Google glass and you can imagine them and other companies using this technology to build some kind of assistant that for example could help you to make a lasagne in your kitchen and to tell you what ingredients you needed and where to find them.
“Not necessarily a robot assistant but something wearable such as your Google glass or some other maker might make a similar thing so you can carry it around with you.”
ORIGINAL: The Telegraph
29 Jan 2014