In the 1940s, computer scientist Alan Turing theorized that machines would one day possess an unlimited impact on our existence through a process that might mimic evolution. The biggest question of our time follows: Is AI a danger to humanity if it supersedes human intelligence?
Is AI Harmful or Beneficial?
According to the Future of Life Institute, one misguided worry is that AI will turn conscious, but a more realistic worry is that AI turns competent with goals and ways of doing things that are misaligned with ours. Truthfully, we won’t reach any “superhuman” level of artificial intelligence within our lifetime, but the institute does advocate for research in AI safety. The answer is that it could be both.
However, interestingly, it’s projects like Kismet that both fascinate and disturb us when it comes to AI technology. Kismet is a robot developed by Cynthia Breazeal that revealed it could both interpret and display human emotions—no emotion was unrecognized in testing.
Could the AI We Use Today Become a Threat?
The AI that we make use of today has already made life smarter and easier through automation, deep thinking, and error reduction. AI is a tool that yields positive effects, but it can also have negative consequences if used incorrectly or maliciously.
Artificial intelligence will transform the way we engage in conflict, and in many ways, it already has. Imagine autonomous drones, robotic swarms, and remote and nanorobot attacks engaged in warfare. In past decades, we have been concerned with the nuclear arms race, but we must also monitor the global autonomous weapons race—Taiwanese computer scientist Kai Fu Lee says it could signal Third Revolution warfare.
AI tech enables face recognition capabilities that allow us to access buildings without keys and unlock our phones. However, in addition to supplying convenience, it could also take away our civil liberties with misuse. In China and other countries, the government and police have been accused of invading public privacy by using face recognition technology. AI’s ability to monitor the global information systems from cameras, surveillance data, and mining social network communication has significant potential for the greater good and for villainous misdeeds.
Social Manipulation and AI Bias
AI will always be at risk for being biased, due to the potential bias of the humans that construct it. If the data sets that AI is trained from contain bias, that bias affects AI-selected actions. AI can then be misused as it was in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, for social manipulation and to amplify misinformation.
A 2019 study published in Nature also revealed that algorithms are frequently guilty of racial bias. The interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election goes to show that humans can take that danger further by employing AI-bots specifically constructed to encourage conflict via one of the oldest forms of misinformation: gossip.
These are just a few of the ways that AI has proven dangerous to humanity, but this is also by humanity’s own hand in its design. In 2018, Vox reported that AI could be more of a threat than climate change due to such misuse in threatening humanity’s extinction.
What Are the Benefits of AI to Humanity?
According to Interesting Engineering, AI can benefit humanity in many ways by reducing human workloads in areas such as assembly, packaging, and customer service. Operational costs and employee costs go down due to higher levels of sophisticated automation, machine learning, and deep learning. Progress like this means fewer tedious tasks for humans to perform.
Other areas of improvement include more exact and immediate smart weather forecasting since AI is available 24/7 and doesn’t take a smoke break. AI can also benefit humans with next-generation disaster response and keep helplines live all day, every day. Critical services are maintained, as well as menial ones. There is also less risk of errors.
Some fear that AI could take away jobs, but they could also create more fulfilling and purpose-driven jobs as humans are needed to meaningfully interpret and apply AI findings.
AI has great potential to both help and harm humanity, but it depends on the minds and hands behind the use of this technology and their motivations. One of the greatest dangers may be that humanity becomes complacent and loses its competence.