Mercedes really doesn’t want you worrying about their new Car-to-X technology on their E-Class, so they brought in a researcher from MIT to tell the rest of us that robots won’t take over the world and enslave mankind.
I attended the U.S. debut of the new Mercedes E-Class in Detroit. It was a fine event, and I thank Mercedes for letting my unrefined greasy self in with the rest of the fancy folks.
Car-to-X communication is basically a term describing communication between just vehicles and between vehicles and transportation infrastructure. The idea is to use sensors other than just those on a single car to create a safer, more efficient driving experience.
It’s a cool concept, and you’ll start to see the technology on the new E-Class. It’s a major step towards full autonomous driving, and that’s what Mercedes is ultimately after. But Mercedes might not think our society is ready for machines that communicate with one another, because there was one thing at the event that struck me as a bit odd.
Mercedes brought in MIT professor Dr. Andrew McAfee to the debut to talk to us about “intelligence,” particularly how artificial intelligence is not going to lead to an I, Robot type situation where oily metal contraptions take over the world (seriously, look at the photo above and below).
And it wasn’t just a few quick words on machine learning and artificial intelligence, it was a significant talk whose principle goal seemed to be to quell our fears of robot world domination.
Dr. McAfee first talked about about why people like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates are scared about A.I. He mentioned the game of chess, and how it used to be considered the ultimate test of human intelligence. “But intelligence,” said Dr. McAfee, “is not inherently human.” He mentioned that, for the last 20 years, computers have been unbeatable at chess, and this idea of super intelligence where computers are better than humans at everything is “a bit of a scary concept.”
Dr. McAfee used a quote from Elon Musk: “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.” Whew, that’s a scary quote.
But fear not, humans, for the doctor told us many times that we have nothing to worry about. The idea of machines becoming self aware and spontaneously communicating with each other is, according to McAfee, “incredibly misplaced [and] actually harming us.” He described what he’s learned after speaking to pioneers in the field of artificial intelligence:
This nightmare superintelligence scenario is so far away from anything that they’re currently working on...There’s nothing on our current trajectory of research or investigation that’s going to get us to that point.
McAfee made a joke about how he’ll start being concerned about I, Robot-esque A.I. as soon as his computer decides to spontaneously communicate with his printer, once again assuring us that we’re not doomed to one day answer to robot overlords.
In reference to artificial intelligence leading machines becoming self aware and dominating humans, McAfee quoted a well-renowned A.I. researcher, saying: “worrying about these outcomes is like worrying about overpopulation on Mars.”
What followed were a series of charts showing how advances in computing had caused good things to happen. We’re now using fewer commodities, fewer people are impoverished — you get the idea: computers are good, not bad.
McAfee concluded with: “I feel the need to stress the optimism.”
So, basically, Mercedes brought Dr. McAfee there to firmly reiterate that moving to autonomous, self-learning cars isn’t a bad thing, and that we should not worry. About a thing. Every little thing, is gonna be alright:
In all seriousness, the talk was actually good. You can have a look for yourself.