He also likes Star Trek, and says it does influence his world view.
As both guest Editor-In-Chief and interviewee in this month’s edition of Wired magazine, Obama has outlined both optimism and cynicism about the future of technology, its impact on the world at large, and the growth of Artificial Intelligence.
Specifically, Obama charts the rapid advances and growth in the technology sector, wryly noting that when he took office in 2008, he typed out emails on his Blackberry while now in his final year, he reads daily briefings on an iPad and takes Virtual Reality tours of National Parks.
Obama, who appears either very knowledgeable about AI, or was very well briefed on the subject, highlighted the fact not all technological advances will have universal benefits. Both Specialised AI (the type we have now in factories and self-driving cars designed for a specific purpose) and General AI (the stuff of science fiction which at its worst is like Skynet in the Terminator) will and are having a revolutionary impact in society.
In the Wired interview, the theory is postulated that true Generalised self-aware and self-learning AI may be with us in less than ten years.
The problem with computer intelligence, according to the interview, is that it is cold, and doesn’t possess either an emotional or ethical core. Obama thinks that developers of AI should consider prioritising how to embed values and algorithms in AI, so that Generalised AI can make ‘human’ like decisions, and realise the importance of life.
Obama, over the course of the interview, makes it clear that AI could also help us as a society to solve problems like global warming and find cures for diseases, becoming fully integrated parts of everyday life.
He does stress however, that if machines could one day reduce the need for human labour, and automate and replace the need for human workers in fields from construction to surgical procedures, would we want to live in such an autonomous utopia?
Obama also admitted during his interview with Wired that he was a fan of the original Star Trek Series. No comment was made on his views of the recent remakes. He did however say that The Martian, was his favourite film from last year.