Artificial Intelligence has become the umbrella name for anything that seems to contain some form of statistical trickery. It was boosted when the Mark 1 perceptron was first invented, this was a clunky attempt at copying the neuron of the human brain. Like eco and green, the name is an easy handle to wash a range of associated subjects. Most so called AI is statistical inferences that have been updated to more efficiently handle data and try to produce real information. Although neither artificial or intelligent (yet?) it would be fair to say that the only true emerging chips that could claim to be AI are neuromorphic ones from such companies as Graphcore, IBM, Intel and others. At present the umbrella name should still be technology.

The avalanche of algorithm/large data answers to humankind’s irresistible urge to make more money for its backers and to improve our lot has diverted huge sums of money into this arena. The many claims of its inventors is that it borders on the magical and it will eventually alleviate all the ills in the world. There are many wondrous things that ‘AI’ has produced so far and they are very welcome but they come at a cost, not only financial. The advances in medicine and education are great wins but there is so much hype about the industry on the whole that it risks a rebellion from the populace. The enormous amounts of data and energy are drains on other resources, both in material and brain power. It would be a shame to herald in another AI winter like the one around the 80s where it did not live up to its wild claims. It has great potential and should not be smothered by charlatans and the avaricious.

The ultimate dream for many in supporters is to create Artificial General Intelligence, which will be the all thinking embodiment of the machine version of a synthetic life form. With its extreme cognisance, durability it will make carbon based lifeforms pretty irrelevant. A lot of other scientists think we should not get to worried about it as it is never going to happen. The enormous resources it would need to manufacture and the enormous fear it would create, would make it enemy number one.

The real threat to society is much more nuanced and insidious. The already replacement of human jobs and skills will be rapidly enlarged and the displacement of workers will lead to poverty and war. It may be that ‘intelligent’ weapons will not be used against countries but to keep the underclass subservient. All animals need some kind of regular mental stimulus and us, even more. The idea that you can pay some kind of income to do nothing all day on a large scale is fatuous. The visualisation that it would allow people to follow their dreams of being great musicians or painters and spend their time in cerebral or physical pursuits has many weak points. Such things as being self motivated, capable and willing do not apply to many people alas. Zoos have shown that feeding and decent living areas is not enough, the inmates soon turn into overweight, bored and often psychotic inmates.

It has been mooted that we need automation in health care for the elderly and sick because the remuneration and necessary workers do not entice the employees to fill the vacancies. The idea of paying more and devoting more resources to this area is seen as less preferable than using drones.

We have been here before with other industrial revolutions but they have never been replaced by a synthetic cadre that could be our equal.