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This Week in Tech

Google beats Go champ

Artificial Intelligence.

Prominent science and tech personalities such as Professor Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates and Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla motors and SpaceX) have recently made public statements about how they fear that AI poses a threat to humanity (think along the lines of SkyNet in the Terminator movies or the killer AI in The Matrix).

Read more about this here, and here, and here - and many more locatable with a quick search.

"The development of full Artificial Intelligence could spell the end of the human race". - Stephen Hawking, December 2014.

Artificial Intelligence is potentially the "biggest existential threat" to humanity. - Elon Musk.

Why is this topical?

Well, this week Google's Deepmind AI beat the human world champion of a game called "Go". This is significant because "Go" allows for many more potential moves than other strategy board games such as chess and checkers. In fact the number of potential moves in a game of "Go" is said to outnumber the atoms in the universe - which makes it virtually impossible for an AI to win using brute force (i.e. simply calculating all the possible moves in a way no human can). In order to win the AI has to "think" and strategize in an almost human fashion. This week Deepmind's AI won the first two games (out of 5) against Lee Se-Dol, a feat that many believed completely impossible with current technology and 'at least a decade away'.

How it applies to real life:

As teachers of computer subjects we have always spoken of how computers, robots and automation have impacted on so-called 'blue-collar' work. Manufacturing jobs have been lost to computer controlled, automated assembly lines. Rote administration and clerical jobs (filing, switchboard operation, typing pools, rooms full of accountants and mathematicians performing calculations) have also been wiped out by faster, more efficient computers. But, we have also been able to reassure that there are many jobs out there that computers could never do - because they can't think. Rapid advances in AI are due to change that in the near future. Suddenly many 'white-collar' (office / admin work) jobs are on the line with the World Economic Forum predicting between 5 and 7 million jobs potentially lost by 2020. Just think of all the taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers that self-driving car technologies will put out of work (just one example of AI impact on previously 'safe' jobs).

AI is no longer the concern of researchers and scientists but a real factor of influence in the lives, careers and choices of your learners.

What else happened this week?

That's it for this week. Happy teaching!

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