Will Humans Still Be Humans in an Age of Artificial Intelligence?

PBS's OffBook series explores the future of robots.

Almost as soon as it arrived as a concept, artificial intelligence has occupied a hefty portion of humans' technological anxieties. We worry about machines taking over our jobs (and/or our emotions, and/or our lives). Even as we appreciate the ease that AI has brought to our lives -- the commercial recommendations that recognize our desires, the language processing that understands our curiosities, the information indexing that satisfies them -- we have been conditioned to be suspicious of intelligence that doesn't come in the form most familiar to us: the folds of an organic brain.

But what happens 10 or 20 or 50 years down the road, when artificial intelligence has expanded its capabilities -- and, presumably, its role in our lives? What will that mean for humans, as a culture and as a species?

In the video above, PBS's Off Book series explores those questions. While humans have long turned to their tools to expand their capabilities, what will happen when those tools are themselves intelligent -- when those tools, perhaps, have consciousness and consciences of their own? "Once somebody develops a good AI program," NYU's Gary Marcus says, "it doesn't just replace one worker. It might replace millions of workers." And that, he continued, may bring another concern when it comes to our relationship with our notional robot overlords: "What happens if they decide that we're not useful anymore? I think we do need to think about how to build machines that are ethical. The smarter the machines get, the more important that is."

 

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

Our Incredible, Microscopic World

Highlights from Nikon's Small World in Motion competition, featuring zebrafish embryos, killer T cells attacking cancer, and much more

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."

Video

What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.

Video

Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.

Video

How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Video

Just In