Stephen Hawking on Artificial Intelligence: boon or curse? How technology helped him talk & move?
Technology and Artificial Intellingence can have pretty unexpected impact on human lives. Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest theoretical physicist to have lived in the 21st century once said:
Medicine is not able to cure me, so I rely on technology to help me communicate and move.
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Born on January 8th 1942, Hawking was diagonized with motor neurone disease at the age of 21. At that time, doctors gave him a life expectancy of 2 years. But he lived much much more than that. The diseaase paralysed most of his body parts over decades and by the late 1970s, his speech deteriorated. Initially he relied on partner assisted scanning, which is mechanical and slow method of commnincation. But as technology advanced, in 1986, he received a computer called Words Plus, which used a speech synthesis engine to communicate. Hawking could now simply press a switch to select phrases, words or letters from a bank of about 2,500–3,000 that were scanned.
The machine could produce upto 15 words per minute.
But by 2005, his hands also paralysed and he could only control his cheek muscle. Hawking collaborated with Intel on systems that could translate his brain patterns or facial expressions into switch activations. But the system could only produce one word per minute, which is painfully slow. This is where artificial intelligence helped him. Swiftkey, the London based start-up made a software which used machine learning and used all the published and unpublished works of Stephen hawking as training data to predict what he’ll talk. A motion detecting sensor is used to identify the movements of his cheek muscles and with that he could easily select words appearing on the screen. The machine learning algorithm’s prediction was so effective that Hawking was required only to input around 20% of the sentences and the algorithm was able to predict the rest 80%. To this, he commented that “I can ommunicate better now than before I lost my voice.” He also used wheel chair which could read his cheek movements to control its motion. Researchers are working on machines that could get brain waves, so that they can make paralysed people who cannot even control one muscle of theirs to communicate.
We are lucky enough to be living in a time period where technology and artificial intelligence could give one of the greatest scientist who was paralized, the ability to communicate and move, due to which he communicated with us till the end of his life. But when asked about AI and technology in 2016, Stephen Hawking told this
The rise of powerful technology & AI will be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not know yet which!
The same technology and Artificial intelligence, which makes paralyzed people talk and do wonders, could mark the end of humanity if we are not prepared.
And, we’re not prepared!!
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