Part 2: The Dark Side of Artificial Intelligence

In the last article, we highlighted the Light Side of AI: things like improved healthcare diagnoses and business analytics that result in good things for the world. This week, we’re looking at the other side of AI: the Dark Side. While the content discussed is the stuff of science fiction and dystopia, it’s also a very real concern for some of today’s most prominent minds. Learn why these thought leaders are treading lightly around AI and how it will affect the employment landscape.  

Artificial Intelligence As Told By Legg, Hawkins, Musk and Tegmark

Shane Legg, cofounder of Google’s DeepMind, said just last year that he thinks “human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this.”1 Renowned physicist Stephen Hawkins has cautioned that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”2

But there’s perhaps no more vocal and articulate critic of AI than Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. According to Musk, we could “produce something evil by accident…a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind”.3 He’s gone so far as to say that our most important mission as humans is to colonize Mars, so that if AI turns on us we’ll have somewhere to flee to.

Musk’s main concern is that, as in the past, scientists may not fully understand the ramifications of what they’re creating. However, he doesn’t want to shut down the proliferation of AI technology. Rather, he’s calling for more regulatory oversight. While this may seem like a small gesture, when a Silicon Valley libertarian calls for more oversight, you know he means it.

These ideas line up with those of Max Tegmark, a physics professor at M.I.T. who runs the Future of Life Institute in Boston. In January 2015, Tegmark summarized the Future of Life’s mission: “Do you own a house? Do you own fire insurance? When we got fire and messed up with it, we invented the fire extinguisher. When we got cars and messed up, we invented the seat belt, air bag, and traffic light. But with nuclear weapons and A.I., we don’t want to learn from our mistakes. We want to plan ahead.”3  It appears that even Elon Musk agrees with this statement.

Musk also offers a different route forward than the traditional view of AI. He believes that a more prudent path forward involves “having some sort of merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence.”4 Rather than use our slow, clumsy fingers to work our way around mobile computers, a neural lace inside our skull would wirelessly transmit data from our brain to a computer. According to Musk, we may only be five years away from this form of partial brain interface.

Regardless, it’s important to note that very few serious authorities are calling for the end to AI, but rather the appropriate checks and balances that will ensure they work in accordance with our interests.

AI’s Employment Takeover: Information Workers and Skilled Laborers

The use of machines to replace humans in the labor force is nothing new: ATMs have replaced huge numbers of bank tellers, while manufacturing machines continue to replace assembly line workers.

What makes AI different is its ability to replace information workers and skilled laborers. Take Heliograph, the Washington Post’s AI reporter. As of September 2017, Heliograph published over 850 articles for the Post.5 That’s a lot of jobs that didn’t go to professional journalists.

Or take Uber’s self-driving car initiative. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a recent interview with Bloomberg that he plans to have automated cars in use by customers within eighteen months.6

Perhaps the most striking example is Erika, the exceptionally lifelike Japanese robot that’s expected to begin delivering the news live on air in April.7 Erika is able to monitor a room full of people thanks to her fourteen infrared sensors and face detection technology. Perhaps most disconcertingly, Erika’s creator expects her to achieve “independent consciousness” soon.

While the thought of technological unemployment may seem a manifestation of the Dark Side of AI, shifting employment landscapes have been a part of western culture for over 200 years. The trick will not be to stop AI from replacing humans, but to allow AI and machines to free us from menial tasks while finding new roles for displaced members of society.

Contact us to learn more about how the Hanu Rock Stars are introducing companies to the controls, compliance and technology needed to ensure their AI projects lean towards the Light Side.


  1. DeepMind’s elusive third cofounder is the man making sure that machines stay on our side, Business Insider
  2. Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind, BBC News
  3. Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse, Vanity Fair
  4. Elon Musk says humans must become cyborgs to stay relevant. Is he right?, The Guardian
  5. The Washington Post’s robot reporter has published 850 articles in the past year, Digiday
  6. Uber CEO hopes to have self-driving cars in service in 18 months, TechCrunch
  7. A Robot will Read the News on a Japanese TV Network (Video),