As new advancements in any technology go mainstream, the public at large often reacts with a degree of fear or mistrust.
That’s because with each major step technological step forward, humanity usually has to deal with some growing pains. Even advancements that we now take for granted completely rocked the world when they first appeared on the scene.
The advent of written language reduced the need for humans to memorise everything, and in turn reduced our capacity to remember large quantities of information. It also affected the way knowledge and stories had been passed down for generations.
Electricity drastically reduced our demand for oil, candles and matches, putting the manufacturers and distributors of these items out of business.
The personal computer has nearly single-handedly eliminated the art of handwritten letters, encourages people to Skype in their pyjamas instead of the traditional face-to-face conversation in full dress, tied workers to their desks even more, and has essentially created screen-staring zombies out of the human race.
Ok, maybe that last part is a bit dramatic, but with every significant technological invention, improvement or new disruptive service has come the widespread fear of the unknown and resistance to embracing it fully from a wary public.
Although each new invention or way of doing things has indeed had its drawbacks, the pitfalls are minor compared to how these technologies have expanded or improved our collective human experience.
Such is also the case with artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is only the latest form of technology receiving widespread fear and push back. Even the benevolent Elon Musk has recently been calling for strict regulations of the technology.
Public panic about AI is usually centred on a few fears:
- It will replace human jobs and ultimately put people out of work.
- It will value its final goal or mission over human life, resulting in mankind’s enslavement or complete destruction.
- It will become smarter than people.
But these fears are unfounded. Here are 10 reasons why:
10 reasons AI is nothing to be afraid of
1. It is not all-knowing!
We have gone overboard with the unrealistic portrayal of AI robots and super computers thanks to Hollywood movies and sci-fi novels. These kinds of ‘take over the world and think independently of thy human creator’ AI programs simply don’t exist!
Humans have yet to invent an all-in-one AI design capable of performing an infinite number of tasks and learning at a geometric rate. What you’ll find instead are a growing number of AI designs that can perform very specific tasks very very well but are unable to “think” independently. Such tech is helpful when analysing massive amounts of data, or focusing on one skill or process, like consistently creating email subject lines that convert.
2. It encourages more human interaction
AI is assigned to repetitive tasks so that humans are free to do things that machines aren’t good at, such as interacting with other humans. AI can’t replace a doctor consoling an ill man or a startup CEO conducting dozens of interviews, but it can free up everyone’s schedules a bit.
3. It creates new jobs
Whilst AI could potentially replace some jobs, it’s also true that AI has led to the creation of many jobs as well.
For example, smartphones combined with Uber’s AI technology have created driving jobs for just about anyone with a car. AI has also been integrated into video games. There is now a demand for specialised programmers, engineers and designers to continue perfecting the AI software so that video games’ non-playing characters respond more realistically to human players, making for a better overall gaming experience.
It can be difficult to predict which jobs will be created, but it will absolutely happen. If nothing else, humans still need double check AI’s work to make sure nothing embarrassing or incorrect is produced.
4. It provides equal access to unlimited intelligence
As long as you have an internet connection and either a tablet, smartphone or computer, search engines now provide everyone – regardless of age, sex, religion, race and income – access to information on the web. AI in many ways levels the playing field for people all across the globe and enhances everyone’s capabilities that use it.
5. It reduces or eliminates workplace dangers
In some cases, AI can potentially replace people who go to work and put their lives and limbs at risk completing dangerous tasks. This could very well mean that their prospects for a long and healthy life will be expanded significantly by AI. Such men and women will then be able to pursue safer alternatives in order to earn a living. Many jobs could then be completed as a partnership in which the AI is responsible for the portions of work that could otherwise harm a person.
6. It saves people’s lives when people can’t save people’s lives
Doctors have the heavy responsibility of single-handedly diagnosing illnesses and prescribing the correct course of treatments. But with the famed AI technology of IBM’s Watson, huge amounts of clinical data can be processed in a very short time. Medical cases from around the globe can be cross-referenced for more accurate diagnoses and therefore better treatment can be offered than by any single doctor (or team of doctors) on their own.
7. It makes us take a closer look at our own morals
When we conjure up fantastic tales of AI taking over the world and enslaving or destroying the human race, we have subconsciously projected our own human traits of cruelty, greed and quest for power onto them. When ‘training’ AI, scientists and inventors must dig deep and question themselves in terms of their own ethics and morals to prevent unethical or harmful behaviour from being added to the AI mix. Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robots have served us well for several decades. However, as AI evolves and approaches human-level intelligence, we have to advance our social ideals and adjust the rules accordingly.
8. It makes for a better consumer experience
Thanks to its data processing prowess, AI can help customers in ways that humans can’t. AI can analyse a user’s behaviour and respond accordingly to help them make purchases according to their needs and wants, creating a better online experience for the buyer and more money in the pocket of the business.
9. It is not in the hands of just one person or organisation
There is no single government entity, military leader or evil CEO that can push a button and command AI to harm mankind. In fact, AI isn’t in the hands of a few people but instead is integrated across the globe and is in the hands of more than a million people in thousands of different forms. That makes it pretty difficult to rally the world’s AI in a quest to do evil.
10. It can be boxed
At the end of the day, we have the power to steer AI in any direction that we are comfortable with. We can create a confined computer system (the ‘box’) in which AI is restricted in its abilities to interact with the world. This includes limiting its inputs and outputs with humans, frequently resetting its memory, permitting no control over other machinery and deliberately programming with convoluted logic. Unless AI uses the power of persuasion to convince a person to let it out of its ‘box’, then we have the last say!