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Here’s a frightening scenario. What would happen if Facebook developed a chatbot, it started communicating in a language humans do not understand, Facebook pulled the plug, and then everyone who has a passing grasp of artificial intelligence suddenly went ballistic and thought this meant the end of the world?

That’s essentially what happened when Fast Company wrote about Facebook bots that seemed to go off the deep end a few weeks ago. As these scares usually run, it took a few more weeks before dozens of other outlets (not including VentureBeat — this time) jumped on the doomsday bandwagon and inferred way too much about the news.

What is it about AI that makes us all nervous?

For starters, we need to get our facts straight. As Gizmodo noted in great detail, researchers didn’t panic. They wanted a bot that communicates with humans, so they shut down the code. It almost seems like people who don’t know that much about the limits of AI (that the algorithms we’re creating today are not going to be driving us all off a cliff tomorrow) were trying to create some hysteria. It doesn’t help that, to be frank, some of the warnings are legitimate, as Technology Review noted last spring.


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Meanwhile, there is a concern about society not being prepared for bots eventually doing menial labor for the human workforce. High school students should pay attention to this — you might need to figure out a different career path. It’s a real concern, mostly because it’s already happening and we’re already playing catch-up. (It’s a good lesson about doomsday scenarios — the ones we should really worry about are the ones that are already factual, obvious, and occurring all around us in real time.)

What are your thoughts? I’m curious to hear viewpoints about why there is so much hysteria about AI and also what the legitimate concerns should be.

Thanks for reading,
John Brandon
VentureBeat Editor

P.S. Please enjoy this video from How Walmart uses AI to bridge online and offline worlds.”

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