Real danger of AI? Its lack of common sense

Machine-learning algorithms don't understand meaning the way humans do - with sometimes disastrous results

You have probably heard that we're in the midst of an artificial revolution. We are told that machine intelligence is progressing at an astounding rate, powered by "deep learning" algorithms that use huge amounts of data to train complicated programs knows as "neural networks".

Today's artificial intelligence (AI) programs can recognise faces and transcribe spoken sentences. We have programs that can spot subtle financial fraud, find relevant Web pages in response to ambiguous queries, map the best driving route to almost any destination, beat human grandmasters at chess and Go, and translate hundreds of languages. What's more, we've been promised that self-driving cars, automated cancer diagnoses, housecleaning robots and even automated scientific discovery are on the verge of becoming mainstream.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2018, with the headline 'Real danger of AI? Its lack of common sense'. Print Edition | Subscribe