Zuckerberg’s ‘Jarvis’ opens discussion about AI

February 9, 2017 — by Saya Sivaram

Is AI ok to have? Find out in this article!

In the final days of 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued himself a challenge: to create an artificial intelligence (AI) that runs his house, much like Tony Stark’s butler Edward Jarvis in the movie “Iron Man.”

For months, it seemed as though Zuckerberg had forgotten about his resolution, as there was no news of him working on an AI. However, in the closing months of 2016, he configured a fully functional AI — in the form of a disembodied voice built into the house — and named it Jarvis after its inspiration.

On Dec. 19, Zuckerberg unveiled Jarvis in a video posted on Facebook. The video showed Jarvis taking care of general necessities, such as controlling his Palo Alto house’s temperature, speaking in Mandarin to Zuckerberg’s daughter Max and shooting gray T-shirts through a specially built cannon.

While the video did portray Jarvis as a comprehensive household helper, the reality is that it is still a far cry from something commercially useful. Zuckerberg himself admitted in a Facebook post that Jarvis is still in a fairly primitive state. Some of its glitches have yet to be fixed, such as issues with voice recognition and house connectivity. Currently, Jarvis is more akin to the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, which are mainstream versions of simpler AIs, than it is to Stark’s AI.

Even so, Zuckerberg’s success in developing an AI does bring the realities of technology to the forefront of our minds. For years, Hollywood has depicted the horrors of a future in which machines take over the Earth and overpower human civilization, whether it be the Cyborgs in “Battlestar Galactica” or the humanoid robot in “Ex Machina.”

Watching these movies doesn’t evoke violent emotions, as the idea of AI still seems like an occurrence in the very distant future. Jarvis, however, shows how close a future of AI controlling flying cars or performing surgeries may be.

Already, Google Homes and Amazon Echoes are staples in many homes in the Bay Area. The problem with the two devices, there is the ever-present fear of having a device that is constantly listening. And the truth is that a machine like Amazon’s Alexa is always collecting data from the conversations, patterns and orders that it hears. All of that information then goes back to Amazon, where they become privy to your shopping habits, hobbies and lifestyle.

It is truly terrifying to think that these invasions of privacy are so accepted nowadays, hidden behind the veil of improving technology. As AI begins to grow, so may our lack of privacy and security.

Whether or not that is something that society is willing to sacrifice is still up for debate — but this technology doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

After all, it won’t be long before Jarvis makes its way beyond the Zuckerberg household.  

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