Max Tegmark, the President of the Future of Life Institute, was once quoted as saying, “Everything we love about civilisation is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilisation flourish like never before – as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.” Most technology experts believe that within the next couple of years, our lives will significantly improve because of new technology and advancements in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).
Nevertheless, there is another school of thought that warns about the seeming impending dangers of AI. They believe that the introduction of machine learning in computers and advancements in the field of AI could have dire consequences for humans.
According to the theory of technological singularity, intelligent computers could replace humanity as the dominant force on earth in future. Similar to the plot of several Hollywood movies, where the world is plunged into an eerie dystopian society, one where humans are enslaved by AI.
The truth is this: whether we admit it or not, the advent of the modern-day computer has had an almost unimaginable impact on our lives. Anyone who has used a laptop, a mobile phone, or a smartwatch would have undoubtedly experienced the pleasures of advanced computers.
From surfing the internet to using voice-enabled navigation systems in our vehicles, technology continues to make our lives better. We ultimately now live in a world that is so connected that access to information and knowledge is only limited by our appetite.
From almost all spheres of life, we can see the influence of technology. In business, we are witnessing a considerable shift from tedious processes to a more tech-enabled and automated work environment. Productivity has considerably improved because of enhanced connectivity and collaboration. Remote workspaces are now commonplace, and employees can benefit from working from their homes.
In health care, the benefits are similar. AI is already being deployed to help crunch large sets of data that can help detect patterns and predict a patient’s risk for developing a condition. AI algorithms are also improving the use of robotics in complex surgeries. According to Accenture, a technology consulting firm, AI-enabled, robot-assisted surgery could save the U.S. healthcare industry $40 billion annually by 2026.
The unmistakable truth is that we are now living in the era of the AI boom, as the world continues to witness an almost mind-numbing number of improvements in AI technology. Chat-based search and other related AI empowered technology like a wildfire is impacting everything from natural language processing to video and voice recognition to even creating art, a once exclusive reserve for the human touch and sensibility.
When we take a critical look at the pace of AI technology and its impact on our lives within such a short period, it is understandable why some people believe that computers will become self-aware and threatening in the future. Take Chat GPT for instance, the AI language model created by Open AI – only a few months old, has become smart enough to pass the bar exam in the US, and achieve similar scores to humans. Does that now mean that AI modules could become licensed lawyers in the future? Perhaps it’s still too early to call, but who knows?
If like many you are fascinated by Chat GPT and its raw computing power, then wait till you learn of all the other equally incredible feats that are already possible with AI technology. MIT Media Lab is for instance, developing Affective Computing or ‘Artificial Emotional Intelligence.’ These are computers with the ability to read and react to the emotional state of human beings.
Just imagine, in the near future humans would witness and interact with advanced AI computers that can move, see, read, speak, respond to human emotions, and possibly predict our actions. Surely such a reality does give credence to the grand debate currently unfolding on the potential ramifications of AI.
The likely loss of jobs and reduced employability for humans is a case in point. Going by a recent report from Accenture, the widespread adoption of AI language models like ChatGPT-4 could potentially disrupt as much as 40% of all working hours – with clerical and secretarial roles most affected.
Whereas the apprehension surrounding the potential loss of jobs and its dire impact is a compelling argument, there is also the looming threat of how AI could be used in the hands of bad actors. Interestingly, all these worries aren’t unrelated to the calls by industry experts such as Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Jeoffrey Hinton– the godfather of AI – to call for a pause on further advancements in the developments of AI, citing the “profound risks to society and humanity.
For now, the debate continues. And regardless of which direction the pendulum swings, one inescapable truth is that in spite of the potentials, or perceived risks, humanity is still for the most part woefully ignorant about the inner workings of this technology or the full extent of how it will impact humanity for that matter.
As far as I’m concerned, the sobering realization confirms the need for more research, exploration, and responsible development of AI. In the interim however, we can’t help but ponder: are intellectually superior computers going to take over our world?