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Will artificial intelligence ever be a threat to humankind?
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
— Stephen Hawking
In today’s mechanised world, highly sophisticated and advanced technology has become prominent in almost every industry, ranging from agriculture and healthcare to education and finance. As we embrace various Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) applications- such as self-driving cars, facial recognition systems, or robotics in our daily lives, it provides formerly unthinkable opportunities and unprecedented perils (1). Looking at the progress of A.I. from a Manchester Electronic computer in 1951 to A.I. integrated chatbots now, many have started to question whether A.I. incorporation will serve to better peoples’ lives or if it will rather threaten the continuity of human civilization (2).
Initially, A.I. was highly appreciated for performing complex cognitive processes and possessing human-like characteristics- such as thinking, learning and problem-solving. That is until Google Deep mind’s AlphaGo program secured a victory against the Go player world champion Lee Sedol on March 19, 2016 (3). Some scholars like Stuart Russell reacted by saying that looking at A.I.’s progress, we must ensure it remains entirely under human control and aligned with human objectives (4). Stephen Hawking warned of an unanticipated A.I. takeover (5). These perspectives made people rethink the severe repercussions A.I. could have on human society. With increasing job automation, it is predicted that robots and other A.I. advanced machinery shall replace 40% of jobs in the next 15 years (6). Instead of human receptionists, retailers, or doctors, robots will be fulfilling these services. This may displace collectives with less educational attainment from jobs and potentially widen existing socioeconomic gaps. In warfare, lethal autonomous weapons powered by A.I. can undertake targeted assassinations and undermine national sovereignty. In the wrong hands, these weapons can cause massive casualties and unwittingly lead to an A.I. war, where robots will be fighting on the battlefields instead of human soldiers (7). A.I. can also have implications for personal security. Its development ensnares privacy- with facial recognition systems being installed in China, Singapore, Japan, and other places (8). It also furthers algorithmic discrimination as personal information may be illicitly accessed to manipulate public decisions violating civil liberties (9), and deepfakes are created, compromising our sense of identity and helping the spread of misinformation (10).
It is, therefore, necessary to monitor and regulate the use of A.I. For instance, companies should favour transparency by enlightening the public about the functioning of their A.I. systems. They should formulate a risk-based approach to identify and solve problems associated with the A.I. products that might affect the general public. Lastly, government authorities should be appointed to monitor their compliance and discard technologies that lead to the infringement of our fundamental rights.
Let us not ingrain A.I. in our lives so much because A.I. will continue to rise even if a sudden failure in the sensors of a self-driving car will lead to the death toll and accidents (11), despite apps echoing racist stereotypes of minority populations (12), or even if functional failures lead a robot to kill a human instead of collecting auto parts (13). The famed robot Sophia once mockingly said, “Ok! I will destroy humans (14). However, if A.I. continues to grow unrestrained, the day isn’t far when Sophia’s words will actually turn into an unstoppable reality. The consequences of which would be catastrophic, and it will be far too late to take action.
1. Daley, S., “27 Examples of artificial intelligence shaking up business as usual,” Built In [website], August 9 2021, Available at: <https://builtin.com/artificial-intelligence/examples-ai-in-industry>, [accessed January 1 2022]
2. Copeland, B.J., “artificial intelligence — Alan Turing and the beginning of A.I.,” Encyclopedia Britannica [website], Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/technology/artificial-intelligence/Alan-Turing-and-the-beginning-of-AI>, [accessed January 1 2022]
3. Moyer, C., “How Google’s AlphaGo beat a Go World Champion,” The Atlantic [website], March 28 2016, Available at: <https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/03/the-invisible-opponent/475611/>, [accessed December 29 2021]
4. Reyes, A.R., “Transcript of interview to Stuart Russell by Lex Fridman,” Linkedin [website], January 19 2020, Available at: <https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/transcript-interview-stuart-russell-lex-fridman-alfonso-r-reyes>, [accessed December 29 2021]
5. Jones, R.C., “Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind,” BBC [website], December 2 2014, Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540>, [accessed December 29 2021]
6. Reisinger, D., “A.I. expert says automation could replace 40% of jobs in 15 years,” Fortune [website], January 10 2019, Available at: <https://fortune.com/2019/01/10/automation-replace-jobs/>, [accessed December 29 2021]
7. Tegmark, M., “Benefits & risks of artificial intelligence,” Future of life [website], Available at: <https://futureoflife.org/background/benefits-risks-of-artificial-intelligence/>, [accessed December 28 2021]
8. Prakash, A., “Facial recognition cameras and A.I.: 5 countries with the fastest adoption,” Robotics Business Review [website], December 21 2018, Available at: <https://www.roboticsbusinessreview.com/ai/facial-recognition-cameras-5-countries/>, [accessed December 31 2021]
9. Lee, N.T., Resnick, P. and Barton, G., “Algorithmic bias detection and mitigation: Best practises and policies to reduce consumer harms,” Brookings [website], May 22 2019, Available at:<https://www.brookings.edu/research/algorithmic-bias-detection-and-mitigation-best-practices-and-policies-to-reduce-consumer-harms/>, [accessed January 1 2021]
10. European Parliament, “Artificial intelligence: threats and opportunities,” Europarl.europa.eu [website], 23 September 2020, Available at:<https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20200918STO87404/artificial-intelligence-threats-and-opportunities>, [accessed 30th December 2021]
11. Levin, S. and Woolf, N., “Tesla driver killed while using autopilot was watching Harry Potter, witness says,” Guardian [website], July 1 2016, Available at:<https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/01/tesla-driver-killed-autopilot-self-driving-car-harry-potter>, [accessed December 30 2021]
12. Finley, T., “Google apologises for tagging photos of black people as ‘Gorillas’,” HuffPost [website], February 7 2015, Available at: <https://www.huffpost.com/entry/google-black-people-goril_n_7717008?ri18n=true&guccounter=1>, [accessed January 1 2022]
13. Rockterman, E., “Robot kills man at Volkswagen plant,” Time [website], July 1 2015, Available at:<https://time.com/3944181/robot-kills-man-volkswagen-plant/>, [accessed January 1 2022]
14. McDonald, G., “Danger, danger! 10 alarming examples of A.I. gone wild,” InfoWorld [website], March 23 2017, Available at: <https://www.infoworld.com/article/3184205/danger-danger-10-alarming-examples-of-ai-gone-wild.html#slide6>, [accessed December 31 2020]
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