THERE is an old joke that says the ideal flight crew is a computer, a pilot and a dog. The computer’s job is to fly the plane. The pilot is there to feed the dog. And the dog’s job is to bite the pilot if he tries to touch the computer.
Handing complicated tasks to computers is not new. But a recent spurt of progress in machine learning, a subfield of AI, has enabled computers to tackle many problems which were previously beyond them. The result has been an AI boom, with computers moving into everything from medical diagnosis and insurance to self-driving cars.
There is a snag, though. Machine learning works by giving computers the ability to train themselves, which adapts their programming to the task at hand. People struggle to understand what those self-written programs do.