You may not know this, but Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” has a professional background in monitoring new and potentially dangerous innovations. Before becoming a renowned science educator, Nye worked as an engineer at Boeing during a period of rapid change in aviation control systems and the need to ensure that the results of new systems were understood. And going all the way back to the days of steam engine innovation, Nye says “control theory” has always been key to introducing new technology.
It will be no different with artificial intelligence. Although he is not an expert in artificial intelligence, Nye said that the main problem that anyone should worry about in the design of artificial intelligence is that we can understand what is happening in computer systems, but we cannot be sure what will came out Social media was an example of how this problem has already manifested itself in the technology sector.
Speaking Thursday at CNBC’s Executive Council on AI Summit in New York, Nye said the rapid rise of AI means that “everyone in middle school to a PhD in computer science is going to have to learn about AI. “
But he’s not worried about technology’s impact on students, citing the “outrage” surrounding the calculator. “Teachers got used to them; everyone has to take tests with calculators,” he said. “This is exactly what it will be… This is the beginning or the rudiments of computer programming.”
More important for the non-computer literate to understand and embrace AI is good design in education. “Everybody now relies on their phone to tell them which side of the street they’re on,” Nye said. “Good engineering requires proper use. People throw around ‘user-friendly,’ but I say ‘user-impossible.'”
Overall, Nye seems more concerned that students haven’t developed their analytical skills than he personally thinks that AI will destroy humanity. And to make sure the risk of the latter can be minimised, he says we need to focus on the former in education. Computer science may become a core learning, but at the core of his belief that “the universe is knowable,” Nye said the most basic skill kids need to learn is critical thinking. It will play a big role in AI, he says, both because of its complexity and its susceptibility to abuse, such as deep fakes. “We want people to be able to ask questions. We don’t want a smaller and smaller fraction of people to understand a more complex world,” Nye said.
Speaking with CNBC’s Tyler Mathisen at the TEC AI Summit, CNBC surprised Nye with a series of questions that came from a prompt given to Google’s generative AI bard: What should we ask Bill Nye about AI?
Bard came up with about 20 questions covering many issues:
How should we ensure that AI is used for good and not harm?
“We need regulations,” Nye said.
What should we be teaching our kids about AI?
“How to write computer code.”
What do you think about the chance of AI surpassing human intelligence?
“He already does.”
What is the most important ethical consideration for AI development?
“That we need a group of legislators who can understand it well enough to create regulations to deal with it, to monitor it,” he said.
What role can artificial intelligence play in tackling some of the world’s most pressing problems such as climate change and poverty?
Nye, who has spent a lot of time thinking about how the world might end — he still thinks giant solar flares are a bigger risk than AI, which, he reminded the audience, “you can turn off” — said that that’s an “excellent question.”
He gave his most extensive answers to AI on this issue.
Watch the video above to see all of Bill Nye’s answers to AI on how it can help save the world.