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Should we be concerned about machines being brought to life?

Affective computing Affective computing
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Affective computing has meant that robots are beginning to understand what you are thinking. What does it mean for the future of AI?

Adap.TV was sold to AOL for $405 million in June 2013.

It’s Managing Director for Europe was Brian Fitzpatrick.

Under his guidance- the programmatic video platform entered 7 new markets and saw revenues grow from 5 to 8 figures.

Having sat down with Hot Topics to discuss the challenges and experience of being part of such a momentous acquisition, the conversation took a rather different path.

“I’m now a private investor”, said Fitzpatrick.

“I’ve made 4 investments in technology startups, 1 of which is in AI”

Fitzpatrick has entered an industry on the verge of historic change.

Until now computers have been seen as inanimate objects built for a single purpose.

We’re seeing the airy shoots of proper artificial intelligence, the ability for machines to assist us in our everyday lives in a way that hasn’t been seen before.

“Machines like hoovers or televisions are very passive things that have to be turned on and off.”

But since the 1990s, a small number of researchers have been working in the field of affective computing to give computers the capacity to read our feelings and react, in ways bearing a startling resemblance to humans.

“We’re seeing the airy shoots of proper artificial intelligence, the ability for machines to assist us in our everyday lives in a way that hasn’t been seen before.”

Fitzpatrick has invested in Emospark, a cube shaped AI console that uses face-tracking and language analysis to assess human emotion and deliver relevant content.

It works, “through an IP camera connected to the device that looks at your face and can recognize you. It can recognize if you’re smiling or if you’re cross and give the appropriate response.”

Some estimates suggest that our expressions give away more than our voice.

And advances in the field of affective computing mean that thousands of data points are fused together to help computers build up an idea of the person in front of them.

Affective computing poses the potential for a truly personalized computer, one that talks back to you like a friend, and who knows what you like and don’t like.

Previously inert machines are being brought to life.

Affective computing and the Turing Test

Such advances have meant that AI is edging toward the regular passing of a test previously deemed impossible.

Designed by the persecuted Alan Turing in the 1950’s, a computer is ‘believed to be thinking’ if it is able to dupe 30 percent of humans in a 5 minute text conversation.

So far only one program has completed the feat.

In June of 2014, Eugene Goostman, written by Russian programmers was able to convince 33 percent of judges at the Royal Society in London that it was a 13 year old boy.

Yet to be widespread, given that few of us possess supercomputers, it’s a teaser of the AI sophistication set to come.

Computers, previously relying on input, spit back matter-of-fact answers. Fitzpatrick tells me that he doesn’t see the future of AI as working this way.

The team at Emospark, “feel that just asking questions, and getting answers isn’t enough. So we’ve written software for the AI to be more conversational. You’d speak to it not as you would a robot, but instead in the same way you would a friend.”

“The way you structure a question is much more free-flowing, and answers come back trying to match the mood you are in.”

Advances come as a result of the, “internet of things on one side, where they can be connected to central servers and controlled.

As well as advances in voice recognition, which allows us to speak, and for that speech to be turned into text, and for that to be turned into machine code which can then access other devices.”

Should AI have us worried?

In the real world, sitting and talking to a robot seems somewhat bizarre. However, films depicting conversations between man and machine are nothing new.

Stanley Kubrick’s ominous depiction of HAL in 2001: a space odyssey, or Joaquin Phoenix’s love affair in Her.

Hollywood’s futuristic depictions of AI add to our benighted ignorance that AI is set to be the catalyst behind the most significant changes in human history.

Playing with AI is like playing with fire.

It rests on a precipice half-way between society’s whimsical fascination with an army of robotic servants aiding in everyday tasks, and the genuine concern that the billions invested by technology companies into machine learning, natural language processing, affective computing and neural networks could spell the end of humanity.

Realizing the potential dangers that lay ahead, some of the world’s most intelligent minds are forming an anti-AI clique.

Stephen Hawking believes that the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.

Limited by our slow rate of biological evolution, Hawking argues there’s no way we would be able to compete and that we’d be superseded.

Elon Musk, founder of PayPal adds weight to the argument:

Musk has compared the dark potential of unfettered artificial superintelligence to “summoning the demon”.

As such, the real-world Tony Stark-like figure has donated $10 million to the Future Of Life Institute, in an attempt to keep AI from taking humanity past the point of no return.

It’s not all bad though.

Affective computing has a plethora of uses.

It becomes far too easy for benefits to be lost in the hysteria of the panic peddled by the world’s media outlets.

Because despite constant warnings, we shouldn’t expect an AI overhaul.

So long as the industry stays true to an open letter entitled ‘Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence’, the letter holds that AI research should be focused towards utilizing it for social good and has been signed by thousands.

The double-edged sword of affective computing is just one strand of an AI revolution set to transform society.

It’s certainly worth keeping a close eye on.