The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years has stoked fear that the technology will one day take control of human destiny. However, experts believe humans are still able to be the masters of their own fate by making the machines they have invented work for their benefit.
Given its extensive application in industrial production and everyday activities, AI is nothing new nowadays both as a concept and in actual practice.
It not only has liberated humans from trivial and repetitive work, but also can satisfactorily accomplish tasks that are otherwise unachievable for mankind due to either physical or intellectual constraints.
AI's stunning power has been demonstrated, for example, by the successive wins by Google's AlphaGo over the best human Go players early this year, which have occupied international news headlines and shocked the whole world.
Tech companies have used the technology's ability to make sophisticated choices based on deep learning to facilitate traders in the stock market.
EquBot LLC, a San Francisco-based company which launched the world's first AI-powered Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) in the New York Stock Exchange in October, said its product can simulate the work of equity research analysts and work around the clock in an "almost fully automated" process.
"The process of choices is almost as complicated as AlphaGo," EquBot CEO Chida Khatua said. "We train our AI models to see how the market will react, let the AI models look at it and see how they behaved," he told Xinhua in a recent interview, explaining the way AI makes decisions.
The AI technology employed by Equbot can process more data than the portfolio managers whom it has replaced and "generate unbiased decisions under a set of investment criteria," according to the company.
In addition, AI has also been applied in the diagnosis of skin cancer, in which the algorithm involved has reached a level on par with professional doctors in dermatology.
It is also featured in the latest iPhone's facial recognition function, and helps Facebook to target users showing intention to commit suicide so as to prevent the tragedies in advance.
Despite these astounding achievements, experts have pointed out that for the time being, the use of AI is still limited to isolated fields and lacks universal applicability.
MAN STILL MASTER OF OWN FATE
People familiar with the AI industry have warned, though, that there will be a time when the technology will evolve into something mature enough to break the sectoral confines.
Elon Musk, CEO of both aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and electric car producer Tesla, has predicted a future scenario where "super AI" will pose real threats to the very existence of mankind, and human beings will have to face that challenge.
However, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, views AI as something to be embraced and not feared.
He said that it is up to humans themselves whether AI would prove to be an aid to humanity or end up destroying it. He gave the remarks while launching his book "Hit Refresh" in London in October, according to local media reports.
In a 2016 essay calling for coordination and collaboration on AI, Nadella listed six principles for the design of AI so as to guarantee that the technology works together with human beings instead of harming them.
He said AI must assist humanity, must be transparent, must maximize efficiencies without destroying the dignity of people, must be designed for intelligent privacy, must have algorithmic accountability, and must guard against bias.
He argued in the article that rather than spending time on debating "good versus evil," people who are closely tracking the development of AI are better advised to focus on "the values instilled in the people and institutions creating the technology."
Similar to Nadella's emphasis on human values, Li Feifei, chief scientist of Google Cloud AI and Machine Learning, also believes that humans have ultimate control over AI and are able to make it work in harmony with mankind.
"Machines don't have independent value. The value of machines is the value of human beings," Li said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in December.
In an effort to champion international cooperation on AI, Google announced in December that it is launching an AI research center in Beijing, the first of its kind in Asia. Li said the center will seek to employ local talents.
"I hope to mobilize global talents to participate in the research of AI because it's such an important science and technology field," she said.