New York Times writer Steve Lohr takes a closer look at public fear circling a future that foresees artificial intelligence and robots that may "threaten jobs and perhaps humanity itself."

Guess what? It's already here.

Society interacts with and is surrounded by artificial intelligence everyday, just in software form. Google Search and ad targeting, Netflix movie recommendations, and Apple's Siri are all fed vast amounts of raw, digital data to learn how to become smarter. "Softbots," as they're called, are growing tremendously quicker than physical robots, which still need much improvement. 

For the near term, it’s those unseen algorithms — far more than robots — that deserve a watchful human eye. The stakes, some experts say, extend far beyond mere technology. “We need to make sure that the data and algorithms are continuously reviewed and vetted by a broad class of people,” said Alex Pentland, a computational social scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “Think of representative democracy, forging algorithms rather than laws.”

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