15 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 299 2019 In a prescient commencement address at Northwestern University back in 2015, IBM’s CEO Ginny Rometty identified an emerging paradigm shift, declaring that “the dawn of a new era” is upon us, one in which “every important decision” of humankind will be made not by humans alone, but by human-machine alliances powered by “cognitive computing” systems to enable outcomes beyond anything humans might accomplish on their own.1 Rometty was right to recognize that such themes as creativity, research, and culture have been traditionally conceived as uniquely human accomplishments in the past and are increasingly being performed by machines and humans working in concert. For several years now, IBM’s Watson AI system has been working with human oncologists at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to learn how to develop treatments for cancer. Watson is also being used to assist decision- making in other domains, such as finance, marketing, and concierge services. Although Hanson Robotics’s Sophia and IBM’s Watson can be competent at very specific tasks such as having a friendly conversation (Sophia) or reading and understanding thousands of articles on a given subject (Watson), humans still reign at so-called general intelligence. We think nothing of the fact that a single human might be equally adept at cooking, composing music, reading a data chart, and building furniture. This is just common sense. This range of ability simply does not exist with artificial intelligence. At least not yet. But in July of 2019, the Microsoft Corporation formally partnered with the formerly nonprofit OpenAI to inaugurate a new collaboration that aims to build the world’s first machine intelligence capable of human-level general intelligent comprehension and skill.2 If successful, such an AI system would be as adept at playing chess and creating recipes as it would be at curing cancer, analyzing foreign policy, planning urban development, and deriving practical solutions to address climate change. This would be a true know-it-all, capable of learning anything on its own without Granting citizenship to an intelligent machine was a sure sign that AI technology is as much a social issue as it is a technical one.
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