TMT Blog: Steve Wozniak – Nothing to Fear from AI

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It’s hard to imagine two characters that seem as diametrically opposed as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the co-founders of Apple – that’s if the recent film representations of Jobs are to be believed, at least.

Wozniak was speaking at last week’s Business Rocks summit in Manchester and openly admitted that whilst he’s still an employee at Apple (with a “token salary”), they won’t tell him anything about upcoming products like the Apple Car because he’s “too honest” and he talks a lot (he does). He also openly praised current CEO Tim Cook’s strategy of taking the business into many charitable areas – something, he commented, Jobs would just never have done. He himself gave away millions of dollars in stock to Apple employees that had been there at the start but to whom Steve Jobs refused to give options.

His honesty is what makes him particularly compelling as a speaker at this kind of event, when you can get caught up in a lot of evangelical nothings. He covers the topics of the Jobs films – calling the Ashton Kutcher version “lousy”, then praising the Michael Fassbender version – saying that all representations actually miss the point. Jobs didn’t have a vision of the Apple-driven world from the start: he had a couple of fantastic, life-changing product ideas and he learned to speak in a way that inspired people and made them believe that he was that true visionary.

At recent events, Wozniak has been increasingly covering the theme of Artificial Intelligence (AI), having long believed that it would never be a real possibility for a computer to get close to equalling a human brain. He’s now coming round to the idea of “conscious computers”, however, and this week he said: “Until recently… artificial intelligence really didn’t make much difference in life but now we’re getting to the point where we’re getting close to what the brain is.” (Sydney Morning Herald).

Eventually, he believes, AI will think smarter than us, figure out solutions to problems that we can’t fix and take over situations that are just too complex for us to manage. But that doesn’t mean that AI is something that we should fear, that the Terminator vision is near. Having previously stated that a future driven by AI would be “scary and very bad for people”, Wozniak now believes that AI will be more like “machines acting like human friends” or even that we’ll be like their well-cared for pets. With this in mind, he started feeding his dog fillet steak.