Microsoft does not think Cortana will eventually kill us

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Several prominent technologists, including Stephen Hawkins and Elon Musk, have recently warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence for the future survival of humanity.

Microsoft is itself investing heavily in the area, but Microsoft Research chief Eric Horvitz does not see anything to be concerned about.

“There have been concerns about the long-term prospect that we lose control of certain kinds of intelligences,” he said.

“I fundamentally don’t think that’s going to happen.

“I think that we will be very proactive in terms of how we field AI systems, and that in the end we’ll be able to get incredible benefits from machine intelligence in all realms of life, from science to education to economics to daily life.”

Horvitz heads a team of more than 1,000 scientists and engineers and he revealed  “over a quarter of all attention and resources” at his research unit were now focused on AI-related activities.

Cortana is one of the fruits of his research and he believed Cortana and its rivals would spur on development of the field.

“The next if not last enduring competitive battlefield among major IT companies will be artificial intelligence,” he said.

“The notion that systems that can think, listen, hear, collect data from thousands of user experiences – and we synthesise it back to enhance its services over time – has come to the forefront now.

“We have Cortana and Siri and Google Now setting up a competitive tournament for where’s the best intelligent assistant going to come from… and that kind of competition is going to heat up the research and investment, and bring it more into the spotlight.”

Other scientists, mainly those not working in the field, have warned that humanity is unlikely to be able to control an agent more intelligent than they are.

“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded,” Stephen Hawkins said, while Elon Musk warned:

“With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”

Do our readers think Microsoft is right, or are they blinded to the threat by competitive interest? Let us know below.

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