Should Humans Be Concerned About Advancements In AI?

Published by Nikulsan | Artificial Intelligence
April 16, 2018.
Artificial Intelligence

It is the stuff of sci-fi legends. An artificially intelligent system gets created, eventually becomes sentient and goes on a rampage against humanity. Even with the level of knowledge present in today’s society, most people’s understanding of what AI is comes from books, movies, and television shows. Because the artificially intelligent system often serves as the villain in pop culture, most people, in reality, look upon advancements in AI and related subjects with suspicion and distrust.

In today’s world, AI plays a crucial role in our day to day lives. From digital personal assistants like Bixby, Cortana or Siri to self-driving cars, voice and facial recognition on mobile devices, it is quite hard to think of a life today without some form of AI assisting us in performing some of our daily tasks. With the number of industries in which AI is being applied growing higher day after day, the question of whether AI has more benefits to offer than dangers is commonly asked.

One common fear which experts show in relation to AI is the problem of how to control artificially intelligent systems after they have been created. Because these systems can, in theory, be smarter than the average human being, there is a high risk that once created, these systems are likely to be used for evil. With large amounts of resources being pumped into the development of autonomous weapon systems to be used in wars which would not necessarily require human oversight, there is the risk of civilians getting targeted by autonomous weapons which are not trained to discern between military targets and civilian ones.

Another fear is the danger of AI systems being used to spy on citizens without legal backing. AI can be used by intelligence agencies and private companies to trawl through large amounts of illegally obtained personal data much faster than it would have taken them if they had to sort through it individually. As AI becomes increasingly advanced, it poses a higher risk to sustaining individual privacy.

AI can also be used in propagating misinformation and fake news around the world through social media websites. In recent times, there have been claims of bots or artificially intelligent programs being used to spread rumors and propaganda on social media websites with the intent of misinforming the public and influencing the behaviors and choices of human users. This poses a threat to the right of humans to make their own choices. There is also an increasing fear that AI can be used to affect how certain information is spread and used to misrepresent facts and truths.

Apart from the risk of AI being programmed or directed to perform a destructive task, there is also the risk of it being programmed for a beneficial task but developing a dangerous path towards achieving this goal. Even when it is not programmed to cause harm, it might create harmful situations for humans. This is especially risky if the AI is operated without human oversight and left to develop its own rules. This lack of clearly defined rules combined with bad or biased data can lead to AI having more negative effects than positive effects.

Of all the concerns people share about the prevalence of AI, perhaps the most common is the issue of losing jobs to artificially intelligent systems. Because AI can perform mental and analytical tasks several thousands of times faster than any human being can, there has been an increase in the number of job positions currently being taken over as artificial intelligent systems begin to take over jobs previously filled by human beings. With AI currently being combined with robotics and mechanics, there is bound to be a decrease in the number of jobs humans can actually perform better than or even at the level of AI-powered systems.

Experts in fields like computer science and technology have also pointed out the risk of advanced AI eventually resulting in the extinction of the human race. The premise of this argument is that human beings have remained the dominant biological specie on earth mostly due to our high level of intelligence, compared to other animals. The ubiquitous risk now is that in the event that AI surpasses human intelligence, the resulting super-intelligent “being” could become more powerful and prove difficult to control. This might result in the fate of the human race being placed in the hands of this emerging super-intelligent system. This theory has over the years being backed by several leading technology experts like Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk who all regard it as a potential existential threat to human existence.

Overall, the risk which AI poses to humanity cannot be termed as minimal. It can, however, be minimized significantly when AI systems are programmed with clearly defined rules. The first step to minimizing and mitigating this risk would be to regulate the AI system. Better testing should be performed on both consumer, industrial, and military AI before it is rolled out to the public. There should be various sets of specially tailored, industry-specific tests which AI would have to go through before it is available for general use.

There also needs to be increased public discourse among AI developers, policymakers and the general public about the applications, ethics and possible effects and dangers of AI. This will help ensure that the general public is aware of advancements in AI and its capabilities. This also provides a forum to gather general user data and consensuses which can then be used to create better AI systems.

While the Hollywood conception of AI and AI-operated systems might still be decades away from the truth, it is of a fact that the current breakthroughs in AI pose a grave challenge to humans in various other ways which cannot be overemphasized. To minimize these hazards, several concrete steps have to be taken towards ensuring that these AI-operated systems are built to and continue to work with humankind, instead of against it. If these regulations are appropriately implemented, the risk which AI poses to humanity, both presently and in the future will remain minimal and be properly managed.