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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Fighter pilots, sorry, here's your AI replacement

There's not a chess master in the world who can beat the latest AI. Recently, what was considered the Holy Grail of AI—an "artificially intelligent" computer beating Go grandmaster Lee Sedol—has been achieved. In fact if you think about the advantages of superhuman speed and infallible memory, there's literally no single task that a properly programmed computer or robot won't be better at. Rock Paper Scissors?

Computers can drive cars now, did you think they wouldn't fly planes? Remember the part about superhuman speed? Watch the rock paper scissors video again if you didn't see all of it. Computers react at a speed impossible for a human to even recognize while they're watching it. The Rock Paper Scissors robot isn't guessing what the human is going to do. It's reacting after the human has already done it, and so fast that at human speed it seems simultaneous. What does that mean for a fighter pilot against a computer? You zig robot zags, you zag robot zigs. For you the human fighter pilot, the robot reacts as though it already knows which way you're going to go. It doesn't. It simply reacts faster than you can even see.
Dubbed ALPHA, this [AI system] recently beat retired United States Air Force Colonel Gene Lee in multiple flight simulator trials, as the researchers explain in a paper recently published in the Journal of Defense Management.

The idea isn’t to replace human fighter pilots. According to Nicholas Ernest, a University of Cincinnati alum and the founder of Psibernetix, the company that developed ALPHA, this AI may ultimately act as a kind of digital assistant that provides real-time advice to pilots. Or it may fly unmanned aircraft that act as wingmen for planes piloted by humans. ALPHA doesn’t replace everything a human does, Ernest explains, but it can help juggle the enormous amount of data flowing from all various sensors on modern fighter planes.

“This isn’t for up-close dogfighting, or using your eyes to look out the cockpit,” he says. “It’s a lot of looking at what your sensors are telling you and interpreting that to tell you if you have a tactical advantage at this particular time and what your response should be.”

That’s where computers have a massive advantage. Just as companies like Google and Facebook scoop up massive amounts of data to determine our interests and decide what ads to show us next, ALPHA can slurp up the firehose of data streaming in from a plane’s sensors and makes quick decisions about how to respond. That said, ALPHA shouldn’t be confused with the AI systems that tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft use. Those companies rely an approach called neural networking, which draws inspiration from the workings of the human brain. But ALPHA is based on a very different idea called fuzzy logic, which is more concerned with mathematical modeling. As Earnest puts it, fuzzy logic is concerned with emulating what people think, rather than on emulating the brain.
If you take one sentence from the above quoted article, remember this one: "The idea isn’t to replace human fighter pilots." No, that's not the idea! In fact the idea of washing machines isn't to replace human drudges manually stirring clothes boiling in a giant steaming kettle. Because why wouldn't we want flag-draped coffins and three-volley salutes? In fact ignore completely all the people telling you what the idea isn't. When somebody starts by telling you they "don't mean it like it sounds," guess what? Everybody worries about an AI computer that thinks and sets its own agenda. That may happen one day, but long before that day ever happens, your own job—whatever it is—will be replaced by AI. Sorry, that's the biz sweetheart.

So what will we do after "employment" is obsolete? We could all be stock market investors, betting on different competing AI run companies. The only problem with that idea is that AI stock market investors will always react faster than we do.

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