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Artificial Intelligence – Our Need to Understand

Artificial Intelligence: Our Need to Understand

Michael A. Stratton
ENGL 101: English Composition
Instructor C. Pengilly, Mountain State University
March 27, 2011

Artificial Intelligence: Our Need to Understand

As an undergraduate majoring in computer science at Mountain State
University, I understand that artificial intelligence has been depicted in many
science fiction venues; although, artificial intelligence it is not just an
element of science fiction. It is important to understand that artificial
intelligence is a legitimate field of study within the field of computer
science; for, the study of artificial intelligence can be as devastating as it
is beneficial. As advances in artificial intelligence technology become more
prudent, it is imperative that the general public understands both the potential
for disaster and the potential for technological miracles. To ignore what
artificial intelligence is and what it can do is a recipe for disaster; a
disaster that may have lasting effects on the human race.

Before I began my undergraduate studies at Mountain State University, I spent
a great deal of time learning computer science theory via free resources from
universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University,
Microsoft Corporation, and other online resources. In terms of computer science,
artificial intelligence is not related to science fiction. In all actuality,
artificial intelligence is a term used for an algorithm that is able to “think”
for itself; for example, an application can adjust its algorithms to meet a
pre-defined condition.

Research and development in the use and creation of artificial intelligent
algorithms encompasses most areas of science and technology in some shape or
form. For example, physicians use medical systems that can take symptoms as an
input and respond with related diagnoses. Accredited universities also study
artificial intelligence in the use of everything from robotic systems that can
think for themselves to Nanobots that can cure human disease. The research and
development of intelligent systems is uncovering technologies that previously we
had only dreamed of.

For purposes of establishing how artificial intelligence may directly affect
you, imagine an artificially intelligent algorithm diagnosing your medical
condition. Berner (2007) commented on an existing problem within the legislature
that encompasses intelligent medical systems “who is at fault if the end user
makes a decision… legal issues have not really been tested or clarified”. For
society to ignore the potential for disaster such as a medical failure is simply
absurd. If we can better understand the dangers that exist, we are better suited
in demanding that decisions are made by the government and policy makers that
will minimize these dangers, as well as plan for a worse-case-scenario in the
event a disaster happens.

We need to understand that artificial intelligence is not just a fictional
phrase as artificial intelligence can truly benefit our lives. Professor Toriumi
(2010), of MIT, offered quite an astounding view of artificial intelligence when
he quoted Ray Kurzwell’s (2005) concept of singularity: “by 2020, artificial
intelligence will rival human intelligence and consciousness”. As far-fetched as
this sounds, advances are being made as we speak that are nothing short of
miracles. These benefits can turn instantly catastrophic if placed in the wrong
hands. What, if anything, do we as the general public really know about these
technological miracles? Who is monitoring these so called “Artificially
Intelligent Advances” to insure they are not motivated by self-indulgence,
righteousness, or religion? Although we do not necessarily need to understand
the technical nature of these advances, we most certainly need to understand
what is being done to reduce the risks involved.

Our current capabilities with intelligence systems are simply astounding. The
“Polyworld” algorithm (Larry Yeager, 2008) was is an algorithm designed to mimic
the evolution of a life form. Cooling systems such as a nuclear power plant are
controlled by algorithms that that are designed to keep the core temperature
within a specific range. The U.S. Department of Defense uses algorithms that are
integrated with satellites to guide missile systems to an exact location. The
core of our electric grid is also managed by a network of algorithms
(mainframes). We are yet at the infancy of what technology is and can do.
Intelligent systems will take us to places we have never been.

The design and development of an artificially intelligent algorithm will
match the requirements of a specific project as defined by its creator(s).
Theoretically, a human can easily input a few lines of code replacing a
directive, such as: “heat nuclear core” rather than: “cool nuclear core”. The
advances of artificial intelligence combined with an individual or a group of
individuals who are motivated by self-interest is a recipe for catastrophic
disaster of biblical proportions.

Artificial intelligence – the human race needs to understand. We need to
educate ourselves in the risks involved, and what is being done to minimize
these risks. We cannot ignore the possibility of a disaster, as it will
inevitably happen. If we are diligent in our efforts that insure there are laws
and fail-safe practices, the catastrophic damage may be greatly reduced.


Berner, E. (2007). Clinical Decision Support Systems, Theory and Practice 2nd
ed., Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, New York, NY (p. 30)

Toriumi (2010). 3.003 Principles of Engineering Practice, Case Study #4:
Semiconductors and Learning Curves, MIT OpenCourseWare, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved


Kurzwell, R. (2005). The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,
Penguin Group, Toronto, Ontario, Canda

Yeager, L. (2008). PolyWorld: Life in a New Context [Computer Software].
Apple Computer, Inc, Cupertino, CA. Retrieved from
http://www.beanblossom.in.us/larryy/PolyWorld.html Date: March, 2011.

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