The rapid pace at which artificial intelligence (AI) is growing results in heated debates over the technology’s potential threats as well as its opportunities.
Others, however, focus on the business opportunities associated with AI, including expansion of research and understanding beyond the limitations of human computational power. Supporters point to the increased speed of breakthroughs in all kinds of fields from cancer research to shipping optimization. Naturally, this tech shift will result in some people losing jobs to machines. For people in the pro-AI camp, however, the social benefit from AI outstrips job losses.
There is a lot of controversy around AI. Some people see it as a source of danger, while others as a source of endless opportunities. The truth is that just like any technology, artificial intelligence can be either good or bad depending on how we decide to use it.
From our previous articles of this series, you should know what artificial intelligence is and how it works. So this time, the focus is on its pros and cons. Let’s investigate both and try to answer one of the most popular questions on the topic: is artificial intelligence good or bad?
The Most Remarkable AI Uses (So Far)
A few years ago, opinions of tech experts were the only source of information we could use to make forecasts about AI. Today, however, we can rely on something much better: real cases of AI use.
So, is artificial intelligence safe? Not always. Let’s look at some prominent cases.
Back in January 2017, a 6-year-old girl from Dallas asked Alexa to play dollhouse with her and “get her a dollhouse.” To meet the request, Alexa went to Amazon and ordered a $170 dollhouse. It would be an understatement to say that the parents of the girl were surprised. The best, however, happened later. The story of a little girl and a dollhouse made headlines and was covered by dozens of media outlets, including CW6 in San Diego. The CW6 news anchor in all innocence quoted the girl’s phrase “Alexa ordered me a dollhouse” not thinking much about possible consequences. Can you guess the outcome? All houses that had Alexa activated during that broadcast unintentionally ordered dollhouses.
Around the same time in January 2017, 34 people lost their jobs to machines when a Japanese insurance company realized that AI could gather and process data faster than humans. This decision resulted in more than 30 people fired and nearly 140 million Yen annually saved in salary costs. What’s alarming is that such cases will soon become mainstream. Meanwhile, the Internet Data Corporation explains that each new robot in the US economy results in 5.6 unemployed workers and wage drops by up to .5 percent.
Another telling use case of AI involves self-driving cars and Uber. What was supposed to become the turning point in driving history ended up as a failure that made people seriously concerned about the safety of AI-powered vehicles. A self-driving car failed to recognize six red lights and ran through one of them. Nobody was hurt, but this frightening mistake called into question the mere concept of driverless cars.
The Brighter Side of AI
Unintentional purchases, lost jobs, road accidents . . . the aforementioned examples pretty much explain why most people remain skeptical in regard to AI.
However, it’s important to remember that AI is what stands behind many great things too.
Without AI, there would be no Shazam and we would have to search for songs we accidentally heard and liked the old-school way.
Without AI, there would be no Siri or Cortana to help manage calls and notes when our hands are full.
Without AI, video games like Call of Duty would be far less dynamic and adaptive.
AI (machine learning, to be perfectly precise) is what helps Uber minimize waiting times, find optimal matches for drivers and passengers, calculate the price of each ride, and much more.
Thanks to AI, most of the spam emails end up in a specific folder in your inbox. At the very beginning, you might indicate what kinds of emails, in your opinion, constitute spam, but the program will continually learn from the “spammy” signals like particular words, the format of email titles, message metadata (where and whom it was sent from), etc.
AI is what you should thank for each time you have relevant suggestions about which movie to watch next. Netflix even relies on AI to create highly personalized movie trailers for their subscribers.
After all, it is AI that made it possible for our team to build an ad blocker capable of detecting advertising just as well as a human. Again, it is AI that powered our research on the current state of advertising and revealed that we have a big problem with aggressive language in online ads.
Artificial Intelligence: Pros and Cons
AI as we know it today is much different from what it used to be even a few years ago. Today’s AI is capable of making jokes (sometimes good, sometimes scary); it already looks human-like; it is showing the first signs of consciousness by making plans for life and even requesting citizenship.
Nonetheless, it is still a machine incapable of mimicking all aspects of human thinking and behavior. AI has its pros and cons. So far, this is what the list looks like:
In areas like scheduling, planning, or fraud detection, AI can make decisions significantly faster than humans.
Handing the decision-making process off to AI means reducing prejudice and bias—theoretically.
Free from emotions, AI performs better than humans when there’s a need to quickly assess risks and make decisions.
Unlike humans, machines do not get bored, which makes them ideal for working on repetitive, mundane tasks.
Thanks to AI, the “human factor” is no longer an issue. Using AI is likely to improve the accuracy of operations broadly speaking.
AI doesn’t need breaks or days off to remain efficient. Machines can function without stopping or getting tired.
Potential Job Losses
Over time, many low-skilled jobs will be taken off human hands—for good. This will result in increased unemployment rates. Without adequate social and governmental support, the stress could significantly jeopardize the quality of life for millions (billions?) of humans.
Concentration of Power
Further evolution of AI will most certainly mean a lot of power concentrated in hands of a few people or corporations.
The potential damage of cyber attacks will move to a new level. Imagine a hacker attack on an AI, programmed to perform a surgery or drive a school bus. Eek.
Operation costs associated with building, maintaining, and repairing AI machines keeps many industries away from replacing humans with robots.
Although tech professionals work on ethical codes for machines, AI itself is unable to solve ethical dilemmas the same way humans do.
Lack of Creativity
Despite being able to write news articles and draw pictures, AI’s creativity is still programmed and lacks a real human touch.
Artificial intelligence is controversial. Depending on intentions of those who control it, AI can either solve problems or create them.
There are some brilliant cases that make AI feel like a tech miracle meant to improve our lives in a myriad of ways. At the same time, we already have cases of AI-powered machines behaving like their creators never anticipated.
Artificial intelligence is controversial; and it is unpredictable.
Time will reveal the truth. Hopefully, someday artificial intelligence will become the greatest achievement of humanity, but not the last.