Artificial Intelligence is technology that takes information from specific domains and uses it to make decisions. It can be used to enhance human abilities or to take us completely out of the equation.
As mentioned in a previous article, "narrow AI” was designed to perform tasks like facial recognition or driving autonomous vehicles. Researches are working to develop AGI or "strong AI" that would outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task.
The benefits of AI
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to transform industries. It brings wealth to companies that automate operations using for instance production robots to increase production and quality while lowering costs.
In the article "Artificial Intelligence can transform the economy", the authors Erik Brynjolfsson, Xiang Hui and Meng Liu write about the fantastic benefits of machine translation for one of the world’s top e-commerce platforms. An AI-based tool that learnt to translate by using data from eBay helps users from all over the world connect and exchange information easier. The tool automatically detects the user’s location and translates the product offering in the local language. The effect of implementing this tool for eBay was an increase in profit by 17% in a few months.
AI is beginning to transform the economy, but human intelligence is still needed to make sure it benefits the many, not just the few.
In the HBR article “How AI will redefine management”, the authors surveyed 1770 managers from 13 countries and interviewed 37 executives in charge of digital transformation in their organisations to understand how AI can enhance management practice. Researchers identified five practices that successful managers will need to master:
- Managers will have to give up administrative tasks and focus on human interaction, cross-domain thinking, motivational techniques through empathy and ethical reflection;
- Managers will have to "work in cooperation with AI" because this technology was designed to support rather than replace;
- In the Age of AI, managers will work as designers. They will embed creativity, testing and Design thinking in their everyday work;
- Managers will foster collaborative creativity to perform their tasks.
- Leaders will develop social skills critical to networking, coaching and collaboration in a world where AI will do most of the tasks.
Risks and threats posed by AI
AI will outperform humans in many domains and will eliminate the jobs that can be automated. The jobs that require human interaction, compassion, creativity, introspection, self-awareness, planning will be less affected.
To counteract the problem of massive unemployment that AI will generate, those that volunteer and train to get jobs will receive a limited universal income, raised through taxation on companies that use AI.
The singularity is the point in history when AI will surpass human intelligence triggered by the exponential growth of computing power. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted that a model of human intelligence would be achieved by 2020.
Elon Musk warned that AI poses fundamental threats to civilisation. Self-aware computers will be able to engage in human-like activities. They will be able to feel, attain knowledge, and understand emotions. In Musk’s view, "we are willingly living in an Orwellian world".
Physicist Stephen Hawking wrote that AI is not nearly as developed as to become a threat to human life, but its continuous development can lead there. Even though it acknowledges the good that comes from using AI technologies, he addresses the situations when AI would outsmart the financial markets, manipulate human leaders or create weapons that we will not understand and control.
In the article “As Artificial Intelligence evolves, so does its criminal potential”, John Markoff discusses the voice recognition technology used to create chatbots. According to Brian Krebs, “companies that offer support via chatbots are making themselves liable to social engineering” (the technique of manipulating people into performing actions or providing information used for illicit purposes.) Chatbots are the weakest link in the internet security chain. The ability to create AI avatars that can fool people online will have profound repercussions on our political systems. We have already seen this used by politicians and governments for political propaganda in the election for Brexit. Researchers call this type of manipulation “computational propaganda” to explain the explosion of deception social media campaigns that have a role in shaping the online conversation can bring during political elections.
How to tackle the threats of AI
A solution could be to regulate AI before it becomes a problem. In 2016, a group of AI researchers representing six of the world’s most important tech companies: Apple, Deepmind and Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM created an alliance called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society to promote a fair and ethical development of Ai technologies.
The Future of Life Institute published an open letter to support research priorities for robust and beneficial AI.