Back when IBM (News - Alert)'s Watson supercomputer went on Jeopardy, and roundly trounced two of the greatest players to ever play the game—Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter—some looked at the development as more than just a curiosity, starting a dark era in which artificial intelligence (AI) could ultimately outdo humans at more than just quiz shows. That's what Elon Musk and a study of 352 experts noted, as released from Yale University and Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute.
By 2060, the study notes, high-level machine intelligences will emerge, and these are the beginning of the end for humanity's employment future. Such AI systems are categorized by being able to perform any task as well or better than humans, and from there, it's projected to take another 76 years—until 2136—until said AIs are everywhere and doing everything better than humans.
For his part, Elon Musk does expect the rise of AI, but on a slightly different timetable. Musk regards the 2060 date as “linear extrapolation” but notes that “progress is exponential” and that he expects high-level machine intelligence to emerge closer to 2030 or 2040. He subsequently, however, noted that “I hope I'm wrong.”
Musk sees no shortage of danger in such AI systems, and therefore co-founded OpenAI in 2015, which is set to make sure AI is used only “for good.” Given that AI is projected to beat humans in a variety of other points fairly soon, such protection may be necessary; by 2024, it's expected these will make better language translators, by 2026, better writers than most high schoolers, and by 2053, will be able to perform surgeries.
Once such systems are ready, they almost certainly will be activated. The nature of capitalism ensures that if there is a lower-priced alternative for anything, labor included, the market will inevitably seek it out. Yet, however, such a protocol pursued to its ultimate limit means the death of capitalism itself. Capitalism requires a market to function. AI systems, meanwhile, will likely not serve as much of a market as these have no real needs or desires, and will therefore not be buying things. So humans will have to stay in the picture as consumers if nothing else, and will need to have some way of raising cash to consume things.
Was the rise of Watson the beginning of humanity's end? Will AI take all the jobs and leave its parents to starve? Will humans form a massive new neo-Luddite movement in response to strike down their silicon masters? Stay tuned...life could get a lot more interesting in days to come.