One of our writers, David Solomonoff wrote an article that got me thinking about Artificial Intelligence or AI as it is commonly called. No one can doubt  that a computer program can sift through data and supply an answer. But is the answer the right one?

It is simple to write a program to sort numbers. Computers are very good at figuring out that 2 is less than 5. Or menial tasks such as crunching the amount  for you paycheck.

But this is all simple stuff. The parameters are well known, only some basic math is involved. Is it possible to create a true ‘thinking’ computer? This is where it becomes a lot more complex.

A simplistic scenario is that your robotic friend spots a spider on the floor. What should it do? Squish the thing? Pick it up and relocate it to a safe place? Or just let the spider go on its way? I am sure that if I were to ask this question of a dozen people, I would get a dozen different answers. Some people might even make the decision more complex, if the spider is small, just leave it alone, if it is big, squish it. Others might say, it depends on the spider, what is it? If it is a Brown Recluse, squish it, if it is a large but harmless spider, relocate it and forget about it.

So, the simple task of what to do with a spider is somewhat more complex than it seems at first glance.

Google and several auto makers are exploring the world of self driving cars, at first glance this sounds like a great idea, but, maybe not. The car finds itself in a tricky situation, there are three people walking across the road, a father, mother and a young child. The only option would be to swerve into oncoming traffic, this will almost certainly kill the car’s brains and the occupants. It is a wide road, so there is a good probability that only one person will get hit. But who?

The father is the bread winner, the mother is the nurturer, and the child is merely following along.

This scenario is far different from the spiders, which option should the car take? This is a decision  far outside of what AI can do at this stage.

Simon Barrett

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