As Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology becomes more common in daily life, the public and experts in the field have responded with mixed opinions on the benefits and costs of these technological curiosities. The rapidly growing field of AI development has some people fearing the possible consequences of self-teaching robots and others excited to see the innovations these machines could produce. The following two writers discuss the potential effects of AI, one arguing for the continued development of AI technology, the other exploring the potential repercussions of AI.
Pro: AI Helps Human Progress
by Drew Scott ‘20
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a recently developed and often scary aspect of technology when it comes to how people perceive it. Most sci-fi works portray AI as something dangerous, but in actuality it can do many amazing things for humanity as a whole. AI can help us improve our knowledge of the world, even outside of STEM. AI can be a huge aid for humanity if we conduct the proper research and development.
IBM has made a hyper-intelligent AI system capable of coherent debate, showing that AI can understand the nuances of human language. Along the lines of communication, AI helps people to be more inclusive, especially toward the deaf and hard of hearing community. It does this by translating sign language to help those with hearing communicate better with deaf people. AI could revolutionize the field of medicine in general. According to WIRED magazine, AI is able to recognise cancerous tumors in a matter of seconds.
Aside from protecting us from disease, AI systems can also assist us with doing dangerous jobs involving certain industries, such as mining, undersea exploration, and nuclear power. With other jobs involving the protection of human lives, AI systems can even create detailed maps of towns and cities to better secure against flooding, and to help with conservation efforts.
Along with more substantial things AI accomplishes, it can also do more menial, mundane tasks. Self-driving cars could save us not only time, but energy as well, as we would pay less attention to the roads, leaving less to human error. They could do chores like washing dishes, and, as with the popular Roombas, vacuum carpeted floors. AIs can be programmed to do jobs like janitorial and sanitary work, saving both companies and homeowners money. This does pose the question, “what happens to all the people who worked those jobs to begin with?” Instead of completely replacing humans with AI, we could simply give humans AI partners, teach them how to work with the AI, and do more work, more efficiently.
AI is very helpful and science has made great progress already, but we can do better with AI’s help. While these advances in technology are great, we still have a long way to go in terms of AI being more commonplace. We should keep conducting research on AI to ensure that we better ourselves and our knowledge of the world.
Con: AI Creates as Many Problems as It Solves
by Sarah Nove ‘20
The ever-expanding development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) seeks to eliminate the difficulties of everyday life. Grand promises of a better, more efficient society make AI seem like the solution to so many problems in the world today. But, in solving those problems, what if AI creates new ones?
Many supporters of AI development point toward innovations like self-driving cars and AI-based machines that do dangerous jobs so ‘human’s don’t have to.’ But what happens to the people who needed those jobs to make a living? Is living on the street any less dangerous than working in a coal mine or on an assembly line? Additionally, AI based robots aren’t just filling ‘dangerous’ jobs––they are replacing janitors, bank tellers, greenhouse operators, taxi drivers––you name it, someone out there is programming a robot to do it.
Aside from its potential effects on the world economy, AI development raises other questions. Robots are designed to recognize faces, listen and respond to vocal cues, to analyse our bodily functions to monitor our health––who can really say where all of that information is going? How can we regulate a system that we can barely understand? The machines we program learn faster than we can keep up with. Just look at YouTube: YouTube runs on an AI-based algorithm, which learns faster than the human programmers who oversee it. As a result, YouTube has been at the center of several controversies. For example, according to The Guardian, around the time of the Logan Paul Suicide Forest scandal, the algorithm realized that divisive videos garnered more engagement than the typical video. Thus, the algorithm began to promote divisive videos, regardless of their accuracy, which in turn spread misinformation. But, by the time programmers noticed the problem, significant damage had already been done.
AI developers may promise to monitor their products ‘properly,’ but, when it comes to AI, there’s no guarantees. AI is a field of study that’s too new to make any definitive statements. How can anyone predict how the economy will react to the addition of an entirely new factor? How can anyone solve a problem before they even know it exists? With all of this in mind, it seems like AI, at the rapid rate it is being developed, has the potential to do more harm than good.