19th December 2014
Scientists to begin 100-year study on
Stanford University will lead a 100-year effort to study the long-term implications of artificial intelligence in all aspects of life.
Stanford University has invited leading thinkers from several institutions to begin a 100-year effort to study and anticipate how artificial intelligence (AI) will affect every aspect of how people work, live and play. This effort – called the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, or AI100 – has been initiated by computer scientist Eric Horvitz, a former president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
In 2009, Horvitz hosted a conference at which top researchers considered breakthroughs in AI and its influence on people and society. While the group concluded that the advances have been largely positive, their debate highlighted the need for longer-term studies of the implications. Now, along with Russ Altman, professor of bioengineering and computer science, Horvitz has formed a group that will begin a series of periodic studies on how AI will affect automation, democracy, ethics, law, national security, privacy, psychology and other issues. These subjects are outlined in a white paper.
"Artificial intelligence is one of the most profound undertakings in science, and one that will affect every aspect of human life," said John Hennessy the President of Stanford University, who helped initiate the project. "Given Stanford's pioneering role in AI and our interdisciplinary mindset, we feel obliged and qualified to host a conversation about how artificial intelligence will affect our children and our children's children."
Five leading academicians with diverse interests will join Horvitz and Altman in launching this effort. The seven researchers will together form the first AI100 standing committee. It and subsequent committees will identify the most compelling topics in AI at any given time, and convene a panel of experts to study and report on these issues. Horvitz envisions this process repeating itself every several years, as new topics are chosen and the horizon of AI technology is scouted.
"I'm very optimistic about the future and see great value ahead for humanity, with advances in systems that can perceive, learn and reason," explains Horvitz, who is launching AI100 as a private philanthropic initiative. "However, it is difficult to anticipate all of the opportunities and issues, so we need to create an enduring process."
Altman, who studied computer science and medicine with Horvitz at Stanford during the late 1980s, said a university is the best place to nurture such a long-term effort: "If your goal is to create a process that looks ahead 30 to 50 to 70 years, it's not altogether clear what artificial intelligence will mean, or how you would study it," he said. "But it's a pretty good bet that Stanford will be around, and that whatever is important at the time, the university will be involved in it."
AI100 is funded by a gift from Eric and his wife Mary Horvitz. They envision that the program, with its century-long chain of committees, study panels and growing digital archive, will remain a centre of vigilance as the future unfolds: "We're excited about kicking off a hundred years of observation and thinking about the influences of AI on people and society. It's our hope that the study, with its extended memory and long gaze, will provide important insights and guidance over the next century and beyond," said Horvitz.
Long-term thinking will be vital if humanity is to survive and prosper in the future. More and more people are now recognising its importance as demonstrated by efforts such as the Long Now Foundation, Singularity University, the 100 Year Starship project, the climate projections of the IPCC and indeed this website, Future Timeline. The group of scientists who will join Horvitz and Altman in forming the first AI100 committee – and their comments – are listed below.