The term “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) is more and more frequently part of the news’ headlines. AI’s commercial applications are becoming mainstream and some of them are broadly available in your mobile phone’s translator or your voice guidance system or in your Google maps. During the next ten years, we will experience a boost in AI’s advances and many daily use and household applications are expected to be commercially available. A recent representative example is the Watch-Bot, a household robot that,independently, learns your household activity patterns to provide you with helpful reminders. If you leave the milk out, or forget to turn a monitor off, or leave food in the microwave, the robot will figure out on its own that you forgot to do something and then gently remind you. As for the waste management industry, I have already written about the importance of AI in waste management, the rise of robots in waste management, and the potential of drones for recycling and facility management.

For sure, a major advance will be the commercial use of driverless cars and there are many people that around 2020 this will have been achieved. Recently, Elon Musk, Tesla’s boss, said that he expects an Apple car, powered by artificial intelligence, by 2020 too. This will have huge impacts for waste management too, especially for the collection services.

The arrival of such commercial applications has triggered a very interesting debate regarding the role of AI in our daily lives, the control we will have (or we will not have) on AI advances, the potential risks and benefits. Here are some examples, from people that definitely know much more than we do about the near future and the potential of AI. Elon Musk made it quite clear that he believes ” not all AI futures are benign.” He’s especially concerned that AI could take “a direction that would be not good for the future.” As a result of this belief, he launched the Open AI initiative with the aim to explore research solely the future of AI and to eventually share most—if not all—of this research with anyone who wants it. That’s right: Musk, Altman, and company aim to give away what may become the 21st century’s most transformative technology—and give it away for free.

Bill Gates has also expressed his enthusiasm about the future of AI. Recently, during his speech at the Code Conference he said “The dream is finally arriving…This is what it was all leading up to.” However, in an interview he gave at the Recode, almost one year ago he has mentioned to big problems.  The first is that AI will eliminate a lot of existing types of jobs. Gates said that AI creates a need for a lot of retraining and proposed measures like creating schools’ classes with less than 10 students, provide people retirement packages at a reasonable age and more vacations.  The second issue is, of course, making sure humans remain in control of the machines. Gates has talked about that in the past, saying that he plans to spend time with people who have ideas on how to address that issue, noting work being done at Stanford, among other places.

I would like to mention Steven Hawking’s contribution too. The famous astrophysicist warned that the development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Hi argument was that AI would eventually become self-aware and supersede humanity, as it will be developed faster than biological evolution. Hawking told the BBC: “The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have, have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

For the same reason,  Google AI researchers in collaboration with the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University have started a new project. The researchers argue that AI is “unlikely to behave optimally all the time,” which can have catastrophic consequences if humans don’t have a fail-safe plan in place. To put our minds at ease, the researchers have published a paper which outlines Deep Mind’s plans to ensure that ‘The Terminator’ doesn’t become a reality”. In response to such concerns, Alphabet Inc (the parent company of Google) is developing a ‘kill switch’, just in case, an artificial intelligence system turns evil.

Well, let’s think deeper, with our natural brains about the future of Artificial Intelligence. After all, if our natural brains have driven the evolution of Artificial Intelligence, maybe they can also find the ways to deal with it in the right way. Elon Musk’s idea might be a good solution. He proposes to add a digital layer to our selves. As he recently noted “You have the limbic system, the cortex and a digital layer above the cortex that could work well and symbiotically with you…A digital layer, would effectively merge in a symbiotic way with a digital intelligence.”

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