|Why artificial intelligence matters|
The term AI refers to a variety of methods, applying equally well to self-replicating robots that could have extreme implications for humanity centuries from now as it does to tools for early diagnosis of cancer. Both are called AI, but the similarities end there. They deploy different methods in different contexts with different aims and different consequences. Most notably the former is a speculated and unlikely future, while the latter is a fact – it is already here. All kinds of AI are worthy of discussion but, for a meaningful and constructive debate, arguments should be grounded in the specific methods, contexts, timeframes and probabilities that they concern. This briefing explains why AI matters by reviewing some of the key opportunities and challenges it presents, but it does so with reference to the functionality and readiness of the technology. The first section focuses on the opportunities and challenges presented by today's AI while the second explores longer-term speculative opportunities and challenges that are contingent upon future developments that may never happen. Readers that are unfamiliar with the state of the art can consult the companion briefing, How artificial intelligence works.