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Digital Life

Regulars | By Matthew Webster | November issue

Too clever for our own good?

I hear ‘artificial intelligence’ (usually ‘AI’) mentioned frequently these days – so it’s about time I addressed it here.  It’s a thorny issue, and I can’t decide if AI is, in the words of Sellar and Yeatman, a good thing. Even the mighty Stephen Hawking has nailed his colours firmly to the fence by declaring, ‘The rise of powerful AI will be either the best thing or the worst ever to happen to humanity.’ So what is it? Unfortunately, AI is an incredibly vague term but, in essence, it is the process that helps computers make decisions on our behalf, based on a set of instructions, precedents and rules that we give them. This might be the numberplate-reader at an airport car park or setting the price of an airline ticket, or providing you with the results of a Google search. All these are managed by AI of one sort...

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