In 1955, only 15 years after the development of an electronic computer, scientists introduced the world to the concept of artificial intelligence, commonly referred to as AI. In the decades that followed, we saw unprecedented advancement in this space.
Today, we know AI in the form of self-driving cars, mobile apps that recognize our face and voice and answer our queries, human-like robots such as Sophia and so on.
Even though these are extremely useful and make our day-to-day lives easier, technologists classify these as narrow AI or weak AI. They might outperform humans in only a specific task which they’re designed for. Other than that, they’ll be mostly useless.
However, the finest form of AI—general AI—would be able to perform every human task more efficiently than humans themselves, hence, often considered a threat to humans.
“Artificial intelligence is one of the most life-changing technological innovations and also the most controversial one,” writes a computer science and networking professional Omkar Dharampuri at Techlurn.
Benefits of AI
We are already experiencing a vast range of benefits due to the integration of artificial intelligence into daily-use objects and applications.
As already stated, today’s AI systems are capable of outperforming humans at specific tasks we program them for. They are highly precise with repetitive tasks and hardly make any errors. Additionally, they can also perform the same task 24×7 without a break, which is impossible with us humans.
With such dedicated systems across a majority of industrial processes, we can effectively cut the cost of operation and also increase the rate of production and task-completion.
We also use applications and digital assistants such as Siri or Cortana that help us sort and schedule our day and help us organize better. They can perform a variety of tasks ranging from playing us a song to setting up a call with our client.
A more recent use case of AI is seen in the medical industry. AI systems can now assist doctors to perform operations in a better manner. Besides, we can use them for maintaining and verifying the electronic health records of patients.
Risks of AI
“AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity. If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity without even thinking about it. No hard feelings. It’s just like if we’re building a road and an anthill happens to be in the way… we don’t hate ants.. we’re just building a road and so… Goodbye anthill.”
But let’s not go so far yet. We are decades away from something like that. As a matter of fact, as creators of smarter AI, we humans wouldn’t risk creating these systems without proper ways to safeguard ourselves in case AI robots go rogue, as depicted in fiction movies.
The primary risk we face in terms of AI is the lack of understanding of their neural networks. Despite being their creators, we lack transparency into how their neural networks process an input to produce a particular result. It is crucial for us that we are able to record and understand how every single input affects the AI neural network and leads to the steps causing the output.
Unless we know how they “think”, we wouldn’t have complete control over them.
Even if we advance in this field and tackle the issue, we would always be at the risk of humans creating AI to target other humans, i.e. AI weapons. To ensure that bad actors do not use AI as illegal weapons, we would need strong regulatory control over how we can build and use smarter AI models.
A much closer and realistic threat we face due to AI is its social impact and how tech oligarchs are using it to manipulate us. We know that with the advent of social media, we have almost all our personal data saved up on the internet somewhere. Tech companies are using AI-algorithms to study this data and influence our various day-to-day decisions, both legally and illegally.
Cambridge Analytica is an unforgettable example of one such illegal attempt.
Another famous discussion revolving around AI is whether or not AI would risk human jobs. There is a divide even among top technologists on this topic. Some believe it would replace humans while others say that it would enhance human jobs and make it error-free. In this case, it’s best to let time tell us what is to happen.
At present, we are only working with narrow AI. The risks it poses are negligible compared to the benefits it is offering to us. However, it would be to our conscience to analyze the risks of further developing AI programs to make it more human-like. It would be crucial that we pay significant importance to contrast the benefits and risks of smarter AI models before we make them a mainstream phenomenon.