The intriguing concept of genetic algorithms

The intriguing concept of genetic algorithms

If you’ve ever delved into the realm of science fiction, then you might be pretty familiar with the concept of autonomous machines–killer robots that have broken free from the will of their creators. While it may seem far-fetched, autonomous machines are a near reality with genetic algorithms to pave the way.  But what are genetic algorithms?

All AI are based on algorithms that dictate their actions. However, genetic algorithms allow their actions to evolve – they are essentially self-modifying algorithms. Genetic algorithms bring machines to a closer level to humans, as they require experience for self-improvement and to better adapt to their environment. Take a self-driving car for example: in order to drive better, the cars must drive more instead of relying on humans for reprogramming. With the right programming, driverless cars can be optimized to protect their passengers.

Now here’s a curious question: could genetic algorithms allow a machine to evolve to the point of self-awareness? There is no definite answer, but the implications of this possible scenario are numerous. What if we were to program a survival element into a machine through genetic programming? Already, driverless cars will require programming to survive accidents, but what about autonomous weapons? What if machines were self-aware enough to sense our dissatisfaction with them? Would they feel threatened, thus triggering their survival instincts to work against the human race? This scenario sounds dangerously close to Skynet­, the AI hive mind you might know from the Terminator franchise.

While this sounds terrifying, yet intriguing, it is doubtful that the destruction of humanity will be at the hands of killer robots. Instead, other consequences will arise from the development of autonomous machines. Highly skilled and capable AI will create a new workforce in the form of machinery–manufacturing jobs, and other menial tasks will no longer be human work. But AI won’t solely be restricted to menial labor. Sophisticated AI could be used to diagnose patients as well, possibly rendering human doctors obsolete. Already, AI is being developed for medical diagnosis (think back to our last salon event!).  Some experts argue that the use of AI in the medical field will not take humans out of the picture, but rather just transform their role.

It is interesting, as well as daunting, to make predictions about what genetic algorithms in AI will bring. However, for now all is yet to be decided. Learning machines and decision-making machines are concerning to many, yet these machines have the potential to improve lives. And while they will have a significant impact on human employment, AI also has the ability to elevate the efficiency of certain tasks. In the meantime, we just have driverless cars to look forward to.