Artificial intelligence (AI), a branch of computer science involved in building machines capable of performing tasks that usually require human intelligence, is no longer a pipe dream. Like it or not, the AI revolution is fast approaching. Though the goal is to eventually reap its rewards, its short-term effects are uncertain. Because of the dangers of AI and our lenience for lax regulations on technological advancements, we are not ready to coexist with it.
Scientists are evolving and integrating AI in as many areas of research as possible. Society simply cannot keep up with its evolution. As a result, any heavily repetitive jobs, especially blue-collar ones, are at risk of obsolescence. White-collar jobs, like managers, supervisors and analysts in science, math, engineering and technology fields, aren’t safe either. The perception that AI will immediately and universally improve quality of life is hopelessly flawed. Those who lose their jobs will struggle to sustain their families, which will increase social stratification. The rise of AI and unsolved systemic issues like poverty and lack of access to education will only make finding a job nearly impossible.
We are in a rush to perfect our rational imperfections and be assisted by AI. We have been consequently quantifying our emotions and knowledge by building sophisticated machines to learn new skills and master complex topics that fall in line with our preferences. This is not progress — it’s a trivialization of humanity. Computer scientists around the world are working toward using robots to systematize our behavior and preferences to optimize human experience. This undermines our ability to grow in light of failure. What is the point if a robot could give us everything we wanted? We transcend superficiality and find meaning through introspection and critical thinking; AI will inhibit future generations from doing either.
I find advocates who claim AI is for the “greater good of the world” scarily optimistic. We are not yet equipped to prevent the cybercrimes and cyberwarfare that extreme digitalization will likely enable. Malevolent actors will use it as another gateway to wreak havoc. They could launch large-scale automated attacks and manipulate AI to destroy entire information systems; if today’s elections leave the proverbial door unlocked to hacking, AI could throw it wide open tomorrow. In a Medium post, David Chong, an AI associate engineer, wrote, “I do hope that these AI tycoons can work together to bridge this gap domestically and across borders.” Chong doesn’t consider how political self-interest will impact the future use of AI. Rather than halt the progression of AI entirely, however, we must plan to mitigate its consequences.
Regulating some innovations are simple: we can enact safeguards after we develop and understand them. But AI does not fall in that category. Instead of competing against each other to create superior technology, countries should collaborate on enacting new restrictions to prevent dystopian sci-fi movies from becoming reality.
Although Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is an extreme case, it’s hard to dismiss the plot as completely fiction as AI develops further. The brainchild of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Ultron (James Spader) was a peacekeeping AI with the objective to protect Earth from future threats. After concluding that the greatest threat to peace was humanity, he committed genocide. The temptation for automated technology and an unparalleled influx of information to improve our livelihoods is enticing, but at what cost?
It is not impossible for humans to evolve with AI; it can enrich our quality of life and help us achieve work-life balance. In developing countries, it can promote new environmental, health and food distribution initiatives. AI has already revolutionized diagnostics in health care by reducing human error and emotional bias: AI currently outperforms doctors in diagnosing breast cancer, reducing false positives by 1.2% and false negatives by 2.7%.
The world is never stagnant. New possibilities for AI are closer than we think, but no one really knows the future of AI. While there is no stopping tech gurus and wealthy actors from investing in its production, we need to protect ourselves before we plunge into a revolution simply because it is revolutionary.
Sophia Ling (24C) is from Carmel, Indiana.