What is Artificial Intelligence?
According to ScienceDaily, the modern definition of artificial intelligence is “the study and design of intelligent agents.” The term artificial intelligence was first coined in 1956 by John McCarthy, an American computer scientist and cognitive scientist. McCarthy gathered experts to a workshop, the Dartmouth Summer Research Project, in which different individuals cooperated with each other to discover the mechanism enabling machines to utilize language and concepts, engage in problem-solving, and ultimately improve themselves.
The Dartmouth AI Project Proposal reads, “The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”
Despite its sophistication, artificial intelligence is no longer something considered to be exclusive in our society today. Artificial intelligence is part of our daily lives. Siri, a virtual assistant part of Apple Inc.’s iOS, and Alex, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, are now easily found in the devices that individuals carry around every day. Furthermore, robot vacuum cleaners such as Neato Botvac D5 are seen in common households. Thus, it is not an exaggeration that artificial intelligence is found in almost all places across the world.
Artificial intelligence is a double-edged sword. Although there are some who believe AI will alleviate problems and ultimately create a better society for human beings to live in, many still fear that AI might take over. Experts like Stephen Hawking have already warned of AI’s threats. Hawking once said, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of human race.” Some experts predict that AI will rapidly evolve to the extent that humans will no longer have control over it. AI is seeping into our lives and there is no doubt that it will someday impact every part of our daily routines.
“People are not just unemployed, they are unemployable.”
Nowadays, people fear that machines will eventually replace them, leaving them with only a few choices in the job market, and thus leading to high unemployment rates. Whether or not machines will completely replace human beings still remains a mystery but recent technological improvements have already shown that it is not something that we can simply disregard. The nature of work is changing. AI has become smarter and faster enough to calculate at the speed of light. AI can now write short stories that make perfect sense. AI such as AlphaGo can play games with human beings.
The rapid advancement in artificial intelligence is causing a significant degree of anxiety. Many worry that artificial intelligence will further exacerbate inequality and increase rates of poverty since automation is constantly reducing the general demand for labor and decreasing employment in various sectors. In fact, a McKinsey Global Institute analysis of 750 jobs concluded that “45% of paid activities could be automated using ‘currently demonstrated technologies’ and . . . 60% of occupations could have 30% or more of their processes automated.”
In addition to triggering a significant change in the job market, artificial intelligence systems utilizing big data analysis (ex. a smart navigation system to avoid traffic jams) are infringing upon the rights to privacy of individuals. With or without one’s knowledge, large amounts of personal data are being collected. Advanced technology is providing big corporations the capacity to get hold of mass data that can be exploited for their own benefits. “Killer robots”, fully autonomous weapons that can operate without human intervention, is also a threat to human society. Some argue that the development of these weapons is a severe breach of international humanitarian law, threatening the right to life as well as the principle of human dignity.
Scottish computer scientist John Giannandrea touches upon another scary aspect of AI. He says, “The real safety question, if you want to call it that, is that if we give these systems biased data, they will be biased.” Gianandrea states that the real concern here is the algorithmic bias embedded into machines. This is especially critical for those utilized in the field of medicine and law that require high levels of objectivity. Bias within systems regarding artificial intelligence can reinforce discrimination, such as displaying a tendency to advertise higher paying jobs to men, ultimately exacerbating gender inequality.