New Technology: On a Lighter Note

By Caroline Mathews, Trending Writer

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has become the face of continuous, science fiction type artificial intelligence (AI) warnings. On September 4, Musk upped the ante with an ominous tweet suggesting that the global race to AI superiority will “likely cause World War III,” or, worse, that AI machines will actually initiate nuclear strikes—posing “vastly more [of a] risk than North Korea.”

These predictions, according to Google’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, John Giannandrea, are grossly unhelpful. These claims may be founded on baseless assumptions that ignore possible positive effects and may have other motives behind the statements. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have the capacity to transform certain industries in an efficient way (similar to the Google Search engine) in making people much more productive. Giannandrea imagines a world of what he calls “pervasive computing,” where the power of technology is integrated into the infrastructure around us rather than just on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Gadgets like the Google Home and Amazon’s Echo give us a taste of what may be to come.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is also optimistic of AI’s benefits to the world, saying that he does not understand the naysayers and thinks it is a “pretty irresponsible” form of fear-mongering. He points to the artificial intelligence systems already helping us in ways like diagnosing diseases. The online digital “brain trust” of more than 6,000 doctors with expert insights organized through an AI platform, known as the Human Diagnosis Project, for example, can allow primary care physicians to access tests and prescribe medications they would have to otherwise outsource and cut wait time from months to days for patients.

However, what most of Silicone Valley billionaires can agree on is that technology is meant to supplement human intellect not replace it. In general, technology can be built for good and bad, and proper considerations need to be in place going forward in the expansion of artificial intelligence, but slowing it down? That is neither feasible nor beneficial.


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 26th print edition.

Contact Caroline at


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