Got you (at least some of you). CRISPR/Cas9 is actually a gene editing technology developed at the University of California, Berkeley that does not have anything to do with machine learning (and artificial intelligence). You can read more about the technology on Wikipedia. It is a relatively recent invention and has already been used in curing diseases in adult tissues and to change the color of skin in mice, Mizuno el. al. 2014. No problem here since the humanity definitely wants to eradicate cancer and other genetic diseases. Until a recent very controversial study came out by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. They applied gene editing by using CRISPR/Cas9 on embryos. Truth to be told, these embryos cannot result in a live birth. Their intent was to cure a blood disorder in the embryo. Huang concludes that further advances need to be made since several of the embryos were not successfully edited, but some were. It goes without saying that this in the future could lead to an ideal child with blue eyes, 6 feet in height, IQ of 130, etc (and graduating from Northwestern University or Georgia Tech - where I got my Ph.D). This nice article in Nature summarize and discusses this controversial research direction.
On the other hand, deep learning in the context of artificial intelligence is all the rage these days. Everybody is warning about the danger of artificial intelligence (AI) to humanity, including extremely influential and prominent people such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking. There are at least 100 returned pages (and probably many more) on google mentioning “artificial intelligence Bill Gates Elon Musk Stephen Hawking”. For someone that knows deep learning (DL) and is conducting research in this space, I believe DL and AI are very far from endangering humanity. Yes, there were significant advances in supervised learning in specific areas (autonomous cars, scene recognition from images, answering to simple factoids), however these models still need a lot of training data and can solve only very narrow specific problems. Train a scene recognition model on images of living animals and then show it a dinosaur. The answer: “Elephant.” A lot of written news and reports today are written by computers powered by AI, but this is much more structured and easier to learn than negotiating a contract with Mr. Trump or preparing a lawyer for a trial. We are very far from computers displacing humans for such tasks.
I am not worried about AI, definitely not in my life span and that of my children, but CRISPR/Cas9 makes me much more nervous. It really means interfering with the natural process and in the not-so-distant future creating exceptional humans a la carte. I am convinced that without any regulations, i.e., unleashing the scientists, successful gene editing would be around the corner. I believe it is very important that experts around the globe step in and prevent further studies of gene editing on embryos. In terms of AI, using CRISPR/Cas9 or another yet-to-be-invented technology to artificially create a functional brain with all the neurons in a jar seems to be more viable and closer in time than mimicking the human brains satisfactory to endanger humanity with bits.