Arms races happen when two sides of a conflict escalate in a series of ever-changing moves intended to outwit the opponent. In biology, a classic example comes from cheetahs and gazelles. Over time, these species have evolved for speed, each responding to the other’s adaptations. A host of weirder examples come from the biology of …

Picture yourself driving down a city street. You go around a curve, and suddenly see something in the middle of the road ahead. What should you do? Of course, the answer depends on what that ‘something’ is. A torn paper bag, a lost shoe, or a tumbleweed? You can drive right over it without a …

We already know the destructive consequences on the individual and collective psyche of poverty, racism and systemic neglect. We don’t need AI as targeting but as something that helps raise up whole populations. concrete Computers are essentially just faster collections of vacuum tubes. How can they emulate human activities like recognising faces or assessing criminality? …

When I was a student, in the distant past when most computers were still huge mainframes, I had a friend whose PhD advisor insisted that he carry out a long and difficult atomic theory calculation by hand. This led to page after page of pencil scratches, full of mistakes, so my friend finally gave in …

Artificial intelligence refers, among other things, to machines’ capacity to demonstrate some degree of what humans consider “intelligence”. This process is being driven by the rapid advancement of machine learning: getting machines to think for themselves rather than pre-programming them with an absolute concept. Take image recognition. Humans excel at this task, but it’s proved …

What would happen if we made all of our data public—everything from wearables monitoring our biometrics, all the way to smartphones monitoring our location, our social media activity, and even our internet search history? Would such insights into our lives simply provide companies and politicians with greater power to invade our privacy and manipulate us …

Is my car hallucinating? Is the algorithm that runs the police surveillance system in my city paranoid? Marvin the android in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy had a pain in all the diodes down his left-hand side. Is that how my toaster feels? This all sounds ludicrous until we realise that our algorithms …

It’s tempting to think of the mind as a layer that sits on top of more primitive cognitive structures. We experience ourselves as conscious beings, after all, in a way that feels different to the rhythm of our heartbeat or the rumblings of our stomach. If the operations of the brain can be separated out …

As over-hyped as artificial intelligence is—everyone’s talking about it, few fully understand it, it might leave us all unemployed but also solve all the world’s problems—its list of accomplishments is growing. AI can now write realistic-sounding text, give debating champs a run for their money, diagnose illnesses, and generate fake human faces—among much more. After training …

As artificial intelligence systems take on more tasks and solve more problems, it’s hard to say which is rising faster: our interest in them or our fear of them. Futurist Ray Kurzweil famously predicted that “By 2029, computers will have emotional intelligence and be convincing as people.” We don’t know how accurate this prediction will …