Proceed with Caution in the Age of Promising AI Frontiers

It is my pleasure to join President Jiali Zhang in welcoming Johns Hopkins University to the HopAI Club. My name is Daniel Blessing and I lead finances for the club. With hard work, we will lay the financial groundwork which will grow this club as AI grows with it.

-Daniel Blessing, hopAI Director of Finance

Personally, I think AI will become a technology that defines our future as the computer and internet have defined our parent’s future. The first academically recognized AI event was held in 1956, where a program called the Logic Theorist was exhibited. The Logic Theorist was a program designed to mimic the problem-solving skills of humans and inspired researchers that AI was achievable. Fast forward to 1997, reigning world chess champion Gary Kasparov lost to IBM’s Deep Blue chess computer. Recently on December 7, 2018, Google’s DeepMind published a paper about AlphaZero, a self-training AI program that defeated previous computer world champions in go, chess, and shogi. An AI program was able to surpass centuries of human knowledge in these games after only a few days of self-training. Generations of geniuses have dedicated their entire lives to chess, and AlphaZero surpassed them by playing itself over a few days with no human input required. AI is a powerful technology. Self-driving cars, life-saving prediction of sepsis, and even Netflix recommendations currently utilize AI programs. It is exciting that we have the privilege to work on the Finance Committee for a club focused on AI.

As promising as the AI frontier appears, there are reasons to be cautious. Elon Musk says “If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably [Artificial Intelligence].” For example, there are concerns about AI programs that decide to award loans becoming socially discriminating. In an extreme example, AI programs can be used by governments to oppress their people through monitoring and judging on a social-credit system. Based on these concerns and great technologies, I think the conversation of HopAI should be focused on AI safety and opportunity. In conclusion, Artificial Intelligence is an exciting, nascent field and the work we will be doing is important for its growth at Johns Hopkins. We will benefit the undergraduates and university by creating a strong AI organization at Johns Hopkins. I look forward to seeing you at our future events and leading the growth of AI at Johns Hopkins and the United States of America.