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Fears that robots will take over are holding back technology, warns AI expert

By Andrew Trotman

Fears that robots will take over the human race are holding back artificial intelligence (AI) from reaching its full potential, according to a leading expert in future technology.

Declaring that we are on the “cusp of generational change” in computing, Dave Coplin, Microsoft’s chief envisioning officer, said people need to trust technology and forge closer relationships with AI so we can reap the benefits.

“A lack of trust in artificial intelligent machines, with fears of being ‘taken over’ by technology, is a major barrier to close relationships forming between technology and humans – a relationship that is needed in order for artificial intelligence to work,” Coplin told the Advertising Week Europe conference in London this week.

He also pointed to the positive results that could come from humans working closely with AI.

“We’re on the cusp of a generational change in how we think about computing. The power and accuracy of AI complements the creativity and emotion of humans. Together they are more powerful than either is alone.”

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It comes as technology companies increasingly focus on how AI can interact with humans to make their lives easier. Microsoft, for example, has recently launched so-called “chatbots” that can act like real people and interact with web users – part of chief executive Satya Nadella’s vision to introduce “conversation as a platform”.

As bots became more prevalent in everyday society and learn what humans like and want, Coplin said it was vital that people retained the option of choosing how and when to use AI to “make the choices that are right for them”.

“Machines are intelligent, and they are learning a lot from us, but where does action come into it? The short answer: The humans choose,” said Coplin, who advises on the impact of technology on society.

“Automated intelligence will enable technology to act on our behalf, if we chose it to. But the emphasis is on the active involvement of the person – we might want technology to complete a painful task, for example, freeing us to do more of the things we really care about. Importantly, artificial intelligence also provides people with a filter on the data, empowering them to take action themselves.”