Artificial Intelligence

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1 Paperclips

Learn It - Evil AI

  • The word Robot entered the English language in the 1920 play R.U.R. about factory robots that learn about violence from humans and revolt against their masters.
  • Since then Artificially Intelligent machines have been portrayed countless times in movies and literature, and not often in a good light.

Badge Task 1 - Silver - Learning Strand - Information Technology

  • Use online resources to look at the following AIs portrayed in fiction.
    • Skynet from the Terminator movies
    • The ship's navigator in WALL-E
    • BB-8 and R2D2 in Star Wars
    • GLaDOS from the portal series
    • Baymax from the Big Hero 6 Movie
    • Bender from Futurama
  • Write a paragraph on how AI has been historically portrayed in fiction.
  • Upload your notes to

Learn It - The reality?

  • Have a read of this article on fictional AIs and the reality.
  • Have a read of this article. There are some very intelligent scientists out there who have genuine concerns about AI.
  • Watch the video below and see how intelligent machines can affect our society.
  • So what are they worried about? One theorised AI that could potentially destroy all humanity is The Paperclipper. This is an AI that has been programmed to make paperclips.
  • Read this exert from Lyle Cantor's article on The Paperclipper.

The year is 2055 and The Gem Manufacturing Company has put you in charge of increasing the efficiency of its paperclip manufacturing operations. One of your hobbies is amateur artificial intelligence research and it just so happens that you figured out how to build a super-human AI just days before you got the commission. Eager to test out your new software, you spend the rest of the day formally defining the concept of a paperclip and then give you new software the following goal, or “utility function” in Bostrom’s parlance: create as many paperclips as possible with the resources available.

You eagerly grant it access to Gem Manufacturing’s automated paperclip production factories and everything starts working out great. The AI discovers new, highly-unexpected ways of rearranging and reprograming existing production equipment. By the end of the week waste has quickly declined, profits risen and when the phone rings you’re sure you’re about to get promoted. But it’s not management calling you, it’s your mother. She’s telling you to turn on the television.

You quickly learn that every automated factory in the world has had its security compromised and they are all churning out paperclips. You rush to into the factories’ central server room and unplug all the computers there. It’s no use, your AI has compromised (and in some cases even honestly rented) several large-scale server farms and is now using a not-insignificant percentage of the worlds computing resources. Around a month later, your AI has gone through the equivalent of several technological revolutions, perfecting a form of nanotechnology it is now using to convert all available matter on earth into paperclips. A decade later, all of our solar system has been turned into paperclips or paperclip production facilities and millions of probes are making their way to nearby stars in search of more matter to turn into paperclips.

Try It

  • With a partner, play a little game whereby one of you is the programmer that has created The Paperclipper and the other one is the AI.
  • The programmer should try to come up with ways that you could limit the AI, either before switching it on or when you realise it's getting out of hand.
  • The AI should try to come up with ways of ensuring that it continues to make paperclips as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Jot down your ideas.

Learn It - Computer Power

  • Moore's Law came about from the observation that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented
  • More often we now refer to Moore's Law with regard to the processing power of computers.


  • As you can see from the graph above, computers are becoming ever more powerful, which begs the question - 'When will it all stop?'

Learn It - Our Benevolent Overlords

  • Watson was able to convincingly beat the best human champions in the game of jeopardy. But what happens when we build a computer that is actually more intelligent than a human?
  • In theory, such a computer would be able to design another computer more intelligent than itself.
  • This next computer could also design a computer more intelligent than itself, and that's not all. Maybe the computers would be capable of solving other problems. Maybe the computer could eradicate disease, devise treatments for ageing, design reactors that give us an infinite source of energy, create processes that provide unlimited food, build spaceships that can travel to other galaxies.
  • We call this hypothetical point in time, the Technological Singularity. Some Scientists don't believe it will ever happen. Some believe it is inevitable.
  • The question is - what do these super-human AI computers do with humankind? Will the computers turn us into immortal beings that never need work or suffer again? Will the computers consider us irrelevant? Serve us? Ignore us? Destroy us?

Research It

  • Have a look at these videos that explain and offer different views of a potential technological singularity.

Badge Task 2 - Gold and Platinum - Learning Strand - Information Technology

  • Answer the following questions as fully as possible. You may need to use other sources of information, other than the videos already shown.
  • What are some of the positive predictions regarding a technological singularity?
  • What are some of the negative predictions regarding a technological singularity?
  • Are there any people working to try and bring about the technological singularity and in your opinion, is this sensible and why?
  • You will be awarded Gold or Platinum according to the quality of your response.
  • Upload your notes to

Badge It - Silver, Gold and Platinum - Learning Strand - Information Technology

  • You have done some research , watched some videos and taken some notes for the Silver, Gold and platinum badge tasks above.
  • To assess your understanding, you will take a quiz.
  • Although your quiz score will award you the badges, but your teacher will also look at your notes to decide if your work has met the badge requirement.
  • Please click here to take a quiz.