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Machines Can’t Dream

The scale of AI’s impact is hotly debated, and often boils down to a single question: Could machines replace us? But, rather than obsess over a dystopian future, government, business, and education leaders should work together to minimize the adverse consequences for humans of the robots we do deploy.

WALLDORF, GERMANY – For more than 20 years, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have been viewed through the lens of competition between humans and machines. Ever since May 1997, when IBM’s “Deep Blue” computer defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov, there has been growing anxiety about the consequences of this cognitive arms race. More recent computer victories – like “Watson’s” 2011 win on the Jeopardy game show, and Google’s 2015 computerized takedown of a professional Go player – have only heightened popular concern.

Leaders, technologists, futurists, and employees in every industry rightly wonder how AI will affect our workplaces, societies, and lives. The scale of AI’s impact is hotly debated, and often boils down to a single question: Could machines replace us?

Smart people disagree about the answer. Some, like Stephen Hawking, believe that AI’s rise represents an existential threat. In 2014, Hawking told a BBC radio audience that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” But others consider such fears overblown, and predict that intelligent automation will lead to a utopia populated by intuitive machines.

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