Artificial intelligence (AI) was introduced in 1956 as a subdivision of computer science – the idea was to create intelligent machines to operate and respond just like humans. In a nutshell, AI is a computer system designed to execute tasks that previously required human intelligence.
Can one truly create the ‘right’ algorithms to execute all the jobs done by humans? Is it safe? These questions are often asked of computer scientists.
Artificial intelligence is generally divided into four different categories: narrow, general, weak and strong. Narrow AI is programmed to complete a task as it is whereas general AI is programmed to rationalise. Weak AI is programmed to behave in the way humans do whereas strong AI is programmed to mimic humans’ way of thinking.
Why Artificial Intelligence?
AI is undoubtedly seen as a stimulus for global economic growth, growth which is desperately needed by most countries. With AI, the probability of causing an error is negligible. Such precision leads to increased efficiency and productivity in the workplace – robots can do things that humans cannot, especially when executing tasks that involve working in a hostile environment such as mining.
The chart below shows a rise in labour productivity in an AI world. This illustrates the promising outlook in labour productivity if AI is applied to developed countries. It is likely that AI will be the breakthrough technology that boosts labour productivity by 40%. The rise in productivity level, given that the number of hours worked remains constant, proves that AI allows people to make better use of their time – thus, efficiency increases.
Machine intelligence can be used to overcome human limitations. That said, AI can replace and shorten repetitive and time-consuming tasks carried out by humans – machines can bear greater levels of responsibility without a decrease in exerted efforts – they do not get tired. Hence, quality can be maintained. Thus, the Chinese government had agreed to invest $15bn in AI industry by 2018.
The automated answering machine is one of Als’ many applications that allows organisations to exercise their interactions with users. Thus, the level of human resources required becomes minimum. Another popular application of AI is smartphones whose function autocorrects human error and predicts what is likely to be said. Next is the use of the intelligent personal assistant (IPA), a software agent that helps perform tasks and provides services to users.
Popular examples of applications developed on the basis of IPA are Cortana, created by Microsoft for both Windows 8.1 and 10 (including the mobile version for Windows 10), Android and iOS, Siri created by Apple, Google Now and Google Home created by Google and many more. These personal assistants help users plan the simplest and fastest route to take to work under a certain amount of time just by looking at maps (e.g. GoogleMaps). This is artificial intelligence – it is simply a tool to make people’s lives easier.
AI as a Threat to Society
AI leads to joblessness if the technology advances to a point where it exceeds a human’s ability to execute tasks. 34 employees of Fukoko Mutual Life Insurance were forced to leave their jobs as a result of the installation of a new AI system that saved the company’s salary costs of approximately $1.3m per year. Moreover, the World Economic Forum forecasts a 5.1 million drop in the number of people in the workforce over the next five years, across 15 countries.
Yes, machines can complete some tasks better than humans, but can the existence of applications like IPA really replace work done by humans? What about services that require genuine care, for example, seniors’ nursing homes or nursery and hospitality services? In addition, what about controlling the machines? Tasks carried out by AI could lead to mass destruction if it falls into the wrong hands – is there such a thing as the ‘right’ algorithms? What about jobs that require creativity?
There is only so much that humans can input into algorithms to feed AI applications – machines do not think, they are only programmed to carry out tasks inputted into the system. They cannot generate emotional intelligence nor creativity nor imagination. Human touch is the core limitation of artificial intelligence.
The Question of Ethics
The most important question lies within ethics. Is it ethical to create human-like machines or, in other words, a human clone in robotic form? Unlike humans, machines’ artificial intelligence is simply immortal. The recreation of intelligence comes with an endless chain of unanswered questions.
There are numerous benefits to investment in AI but the real question lies within the execution – can machines really replace human efforts? To a certain extent, artificial intelligence carries many benefits to the society. Yet, machines are not human. So, the answer to the question whether artificial intelligence can put an end to humanity evolves around the concept of control.
Will humans advance and keep up with the speed of AI’s advancement so it does not outsmart humans and humans still have control over it? If artificial intelligence is not executed in the ‘right’ way, humans could be the victims of its very own creation and thus theoretically, put an end to humanity. Yet, this is far from reality as it is unlikely that the function to “destroy the world” will accidentally be inputted.
“There will be plenty of time to stop this from happening. Before someone builds a “super-bad robot,” someone has to build a “mildly bad robot,” and before that a “not-so-bad robot.”
Michio Kaku, The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind