Artificial Intelligence: Understanding its Amazing and Scary Potential

This post was written by a student in the Stanford’s Winter 2011 Networked Rhetoric class; it was designed to focus in on a particular source or research experience related to his project on social media and digital culture .  See a more detailed overview of this assignment.

As a sophomore currently studying computer science here at Stanford University, I am very interested in learning about computers in general. My research topic for this class focuses on artificial intelligence and its implications on education. Google and Wolfram Mathematica are two of the most popular and most powerful pieces of software that use artificial intelligence. Google has significantly changed how research is done and how society attains knowledge. Mathematica has changed math and science in many ways. It can approximate solutions so well and fast that the approximation can be said to be the actual solution. In my research, I am hoping to see what other artificial intelligence programs like Google and Mathematica are being made and how they will affect areas of education.

To start my research, I thought it would be very important to better understand artificial intelligence and its capabilities and limits. What I think I have learned is that it does not have any limits. At least, it soon won’t have any. I began my research thinking that artificial intelligence was something good, something that should be pursued more heavily. From what I have read, it will definitely change learning and education, but to an extent, I am not sure I would want.

One article I have read has me reconsidering how far I want artificial intelligence. The more the better is what I thought my thesis would support in this project. In Understanding Artificial Intelligence, a collection of articles from Scientific American, Ray Kurzweil compares biological and artificial intelligence so strikingly in “The Coming Merging of Mind and Machine” that the idea of the human brain becoming obsolete is not far-fetched.

I did not know much about computer history, but in his article Kurzweil clearly shows the exponential growth that it is undergoing. When he compares it with the exponential growth of humans, he illustrates that the exponential growth of computers is much faster. The human genome project is only one example he uses. When it was first proposed, it was estimated that it would have taken thousands of years to complete given the past computing power. It has been completed  nearly a decade ago.

Artificial intelligence is such a powerful that I am sure society can benefit from in many ways, but I am starting to see that it is a double-edged sword. Human beings can benefit from it as well as become obsolete by it.

This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Student Research, Networked Rhetoric: Section 1, Stanford Networked Rhetorics class. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Artificial Intelligence: Understanding its Amazing and Scary Potential

  1. enmasse13 says:

    Hey Charlie,

    I’ve always been interested with artificial intelligence (I credit Terminator and The Matrix) so your topic immediately struck a chord. I think you have done a good job understanding the limitations and abilities of AI before embarking on a massive research project. Simply put ,the potential of artificial intelligence is scary.

    It would be interesting if you focused a little more on the potential AI has to render humans obsolete. Will we continually become more dependent on technology before realizing we are dependent on it?

    I know you will great resources to use, especially considering you’re a CS major at Stanford. I look forward to hearing your findings.

  2. Pingback: Researching Networked Culture | The Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Blog

  3. Your title immediately struck a chord with me. Like enmasse13, my interest in AI comes largely from a highly developed fascination in modern science fiction. Your post does quite a good job at outlining the basis for your research: the current state of AI growth. By appealing to emotions such as fear, you immediately hook the reader into your topic. I think this strategy will be key in generating audience interest in the opening parts of your final project. Furthermore, by the end of your project, I assume you will have developed a theory for the growth of AI, and how it will impact education. I think it could be interesting if in this largely scientific endeavor, you also explore theories for what forms this AI might take. Will it extend beyond the Internet? You could possibly do a little bit of research into popular science fiction titles to come up with one final (and fun) prediction for artificial intelligence manifestation.

  4. hspinks says:

    As something that has been discussed a lot in mainstream media, it is very easy to get caught up in the SciFi visions of what artificial intelligence can and will be. I like that you bring up something specific like the human genome project, but otherwise I think that to convince me that AI could render human intelligence obsolete, I would need more evidence of the limitlessness of AI. I think that would be a great place to focus your research, since establishing the lack of ceiling for AI is the first step towards showing its threat to humanity.

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