Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is changing how we work and live. It is in nearly every industry and part of most people’s everyday life. As technology advances, its potential for having a positive impact on humanity is immense. That can also be said of the potentially negative impact it could have on people and our way of life.
What is AI?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary artificial intelligence is:
1. a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers
2. the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent hum
AI is a computer program for processing data using algorithms but with the ability to change and rewrite themselves in response to the data as it is inputted, mimicking human intelligence.
Here’s a more in-depth description from Robotics Business Review.
AI is an advanced field of computer science whereby computer systems are designed to exhibit or mimic characteristics associated with human behavior. These characteristics include the ability to learn (acquiring information and the rules for using the said information), reasoning (using these rules to make informed judgments), self-correction (learning from previous failures), understanding language, and other mental capabilities.
AI In Everyday Life
Artificial intelligence has helped Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter dominate our lives, for better and for worse. Whose blood didn’t boil the day they opened up their Facebook app to find all the posts from their friends and family replaced by paid/sponsored content. This happened courtesy of algorithms that gobbled up your user data to smart-bomb you with products and services deemed interesting to you in particular?
If you ask Siri what the weather forecast is today or interact with a business’s chatbot you are using AI. In fact, not a day goes by that you are not impacted by AI in some way from the drone that flew over your car on the freeway monitoring traffic to the security camera you passed with facial recognition technology while heading into the baseball stadium.
Increasingly, more industries are relying on artificial intelligence to replace their workforce through automation, increasing efficiency in tracking inventory, distribution channels, sales, and security.
The healthcare industry is using AI to better diagnose, track and treat certain diseases for better patient health outcomes. Machines can work in hazardous areas without fear, reducing the risk of a human being getting injured or killed on the job. AI machines can work 24/7 without a lunch break, sleep, or the need for sick leave to boost productivity and profits for many companies.
The Fantastic Potential of AI
Artificial intelligence has the potential to greatly improve the lives of human beings everywhere.
- Always available
AI never takes a day off and can assist humans around the clock. An AI program never experiences a work slump or feels burned out. It can be productive all the time with never a thought about work-life balance.
- The Fearless Factor
Robots with AI can do risky jobs without fear, keeping humans safer. They can be sent into the eye of the hurricane, deep into an ocean, or into outer space programmed to capture precise data with nearly zero chance of error.
With the help of AI, scientists can find innovative solutions to technical or medical problems much faster. For instance: MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have created a new deep-learning model that can predict from a mammogram if a patient is likely to develop breast cancer as much as five years in the future.
- No Biases
AI does not make emotional decisions. Instead, it offers practical, rational decisions based purely on data input to ensure better decision-making guidance for emotional, biased humans.
In a world where nearly everyone has had a debit card, savings account or social media platform hacked, a learning computer program offers better security. Financial institutions, blockchains, large retailers, and medical data storage, just to name a few, are relentlessly under attack by hackers. AI has the potential to greatly increase security by predicting illegal cyber incursions to thwart would-be hackers and identify fraud immediately.
The Dark Side Of AI
If you were a fan of The Terminator movies or Ex Machina then you know the exaggerated fear of what comes from machines that can learn faster than humans then decide they don’t need us around anymore. While we are a long (very long) way from computer programs that can replace human beings entirely there are some very real concerns with the widespread use of AI.
- Mass unemployment
Automation is already filling millions of jobs every year. As computer programs become more sophisticated they will be able to perform many tasks that currently require a human touch leaving many without high-tech skills out of work. Mass unemployment is one potential threat to the expanded use of AI.
- Mass surveillance
Aided by artificial intelligence law enforcement and other government entities can pry into your most personal business. With the help of facial recognition and tracking software, AI could potentially find you anywhere whether you want to be found or not. In countries such as China, AI is already used to spy on its citizens and other countries as well. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote an in-depth paper about this potentially dark use for artificial intelligence.
- Dumbing Us Down
When we can let machines do all the thinking for us our brains will be much less active ushering in cognitive decline at an earlier age. Each subsequent generation could become a bad sequel to Dumber and Dumber.
- Devoid of Ethics
While seemingly far-fetched now, it is not too difficult to imagine scenarios where machines increasingly control our every movement, in fact, our entire lives to the point that we become obsolete to them. A decision to eradicate humanity would be quite easy for a machine without morals or ethics (hello Cyberdyne Systems).
The Matrix Myth
As long as advances in artificial intelligence continue there will always be the potential for abuse of power. In the present, while AI can do impressive things, it still cannot replicate human-level generalized intelligence which does not limit what we can learn and interpret from the data our brain receives. Machines with AI are still limited by their programming, or specialized intelligence, meaning they can only solve one specific problem and perform one task at a time.
Most of the scientific community agrees that AI is a good thing that will enhance the lives of humans around the globe and change the way we work and live for the better. It offers advances in medicine, can replace humans to perform mundane or dangerous work tasks, secure our medical information, our financial institutions and keep hackers from posting fake pleas for help on our Facebook page claiming you are stuck in a foreign prison and need “$1000 American right away.”
You can rest easy tonight knowing you are not going to wake up in the Matrix anytime soon. Instead, you can roll out of bed, ask Siri what’s on your to-do list, and start the coffeemaker. Then you can program your self-driving car to deliver you to the office on the quickest route possible and breeze into work without having to flash a badge because the security cameras recognize your face.