Why AI doctors could signal the arrival of superintelligent robots

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What would alert us that superintelligence is indeed around the corner?

We might call such harbingers canaries in the coal mines of AI. If an artificial-intelligence program develops a fundamental new capability, that’s the equivalent of a canary collapsing: an early warning of AI breakthroughs on the horizon.

Could the famous Turing test serve as a canary? The test, invented by Alan Turing in 1950, posits that human-level AI will be achieved when a person can’t distinguish conversing with a human from conversing with a computer. It’s an important test, but it’s not a canary; it is, rather, the sign that human-level AI has already arrived.


AI doctors are a third canary. AI can already analyze medical images with superhuman accuracy, but that is only a narrow slice of a human doctor’s job. An AI doctor would have to interview patients, consider complications, consult other doctors, and more. These are challenging tasks that require understanding people, language, and medicine. Such a doctor would not have to fool a patient into thinking it is human—that’s why this is different from the Turing test. But it would have to approximate the abilities of human doctors across a wide range of tasks and unanticipated circumstances.

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