Could artificial intelligence lead to world peace?

May 30, 2017 | 1461 Views

Can one man with terminal cancer complete his mission to use artificial intelligence to solve disputes before he dies?

Helsinki, Finland - An audience of international peace brokers have gathered inside a room in the historic House of Estates. They have come from South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Ukraine, Colombia and elsewhere to hear a scientist speak.

That scientist is Timo Honkela, and his keynote speech on the second day of April's National Dialogues conference is titled Peace from a Different Perspective - a Dialogue of a Million People.

It's an intriguing topic, particularly from a specialist in artificial intelligence.

But 54-year-old Honkela is working on a machine that he hopes will facilitate world peace.

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"World peace would be a good goal to work for in my remaining days," he says, smiling over a cup of coffee during a break in the conference.

His humour is as dark as his coffee. Honkela has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, so he has little time left to solve an intractable problem that has plagued humankind for millennia.

Living for a cause

Memory loss appears to be one of the symptoms of Honkela's cancer and he's starting to have a hard time remembering words. But he refuses to be anxious about anything - his new handicaps, the immensity of the task before him, even his death.

"Of course, I wouldn't recommend anyone get cancer to learn how to lead a stress-free life," he jokes.

Project timetables are normal for research scientists, and Honkela is used to working with five-year project windows. "But in this case I started to think differently," he says.

"Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used for something positive within a longer timescale. It becomes realistic; it is realistic even now. It's not foolish, and it has ground."

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Honkela believes peace - not weapon - technologies should be prioritised and says applications utilising neural networks, big data and digital humanities will be fully at our disposal in some 20 years. Trailblazing advancements, he says, are already under way.

"For example, machine translation is becoming better all the time. Five years ago it was laughable most of the time, but now translations between Indo-European languages are reasonable in many cases. It'll significantly increase possibilities for human collaboration and communication over the next 10 years."

Can artificial intelligence help create world peace?

At present, most artificial intelligence technologies are focused on business and marketing applications. We're using them while browsing through social media, calling service lines and typing text messages with text prediction. So what would a Peace Machine entail?

"It's a concept," says Honkela. "It's not only science, but science-based planning or design of a concept in which the idea is an intention to change the world.

"The assumption is that the vast majority of people would enjoy a full state of peace. Empirically that seems impossible, since wars have been so prevalent. So let's use scientific and technological means to improve the chance to have peace."

Pekka Haavisto, the president of the European Instute of Peace and a Finnish parliamentarian with a background in mediation, is impressed by Honkela's idea.

Building the Peace Machine

"Machines and artificial intelligence can't substitute human beings, but they can provide knowledge, possibilities and support for peace processes," he says. "Those processes are often about understanding the language, culture and marginalisation."

The first iteration of the Peace Machine will be a book about how artificial intelligence can help to solve human disputes.

Honkela hopes its content will interest the public and that the Finnish original will be translated, at least into English, Spanish, Arabic and Russian.

His approach is multidisciplinary, tapping computer science, linguistics, language philosophy, psychology, sociology, cognitive science and other disciplines.

"When I got my cancer," he explains, "I was thinking that I've been studying machine learning and artificial intelligence for more than 30 years - what could I do to help us in a significant way?

"My objective of world peace sounded, at first, overly ambitious. Humans have been fighting aggressively with each other for thousands of years, so how could it be any different in the future?"

Then he asked his colleagues, whom he describes as "no-nonsense people", and says they thought the Peace Machine was "a great idea".

Jorg Tiedemann, a professor of language technology at the University of Helsinki, says: "The first impression when hearing the project's title is probably similar for many. It sounds naive and over-idealistic. This was the same for me.

"The term 'machine' may also lead to confusion, giving the idea that there will be one specific machine that will create peace. When I talked to Timo about it for the first time, I definitely wanted to know more about his thoughts and ideas behind it." Read More

Source: Aljazeera