Why We Should Be Wary of the Dangers of AI
Look, we’re not going to tell you that the robot uprising is on its way.
Sure, all of these tools leverage rudimentary AI algorithms to monitor our behaviors and serve us a so-called “better” customer experience, but we have to consider the cost of these technologies. It might sound alarmist to herald the next generation iPhone or Google Assistant as harbingers of the apocalypse, but…just hear us out.
Humanity’s (lack of) future in an AI world
Most new techno marvels are met with outcries from Luddites who don’t want to see the established order upended, but in the case of AI, the warnings about technology advancing too quickly aren’t coming from your average Joes off the street:
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race… It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate.”
- Stephen Hawking, interview with the BBC
“Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.”
- Elon Musk, MIT Symposium
“First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”
- Bill Gates, Reddit AMA
Okay, so, Stephen, Bill, and Elon paint a gloomy picture for humanity’s future in an AI world. But if we had to criticize these guys (just watch us do it), we’d say that these predictions are fairly broad and look pretty far into the future.
Rather than looking decades down the line, what about the ways AI affects us today?
The ways modern AI is ruining your life
Yes, just because we’re not being stuffed into Matrix battery pods (yet) doesn’t mean that AI isn’t influencing our day-to-day lives.
It’s stealing your data
As mentioned above, AI algorithms are already being used to collect our data, build user profiles, and deliver “effortless” customer experiences by way of virtual assistants, social media, and digital marketing.
While these gadgets are still in their infancy, they’re already raising massive red flags about the state of digital privacy, security, and how our personal data is being used. (Don’t worry, folks—Zuckerberg assures us that Facebook is not technically selling our data.)
It’s taking your jobs
But online snooping is only the beginning. As AI continues to progress, we’re seeing its effects all throughout the digital ecosystem—including hiring.
A 2018 report on jobs automation by PwC found that, while only 1 percent of total jobs are forecasted to disappear due to automation, unemployment predictions vary widely across industries. Certain niches—such as machine operators—see a median automation rate of up to 64 percent. And while booming AI will certainly create jobs as well, we can’t deny that it’ll end up putting plenty of folks out of work.
It’s lying to you
We’re living in the era of fake news, and AI may only make it worse. AI tools are becoming accessible to the mainstream, letting anyone manipulate data and create illegitimate content on behalf of researchers, public figures, or politicians.
Gartner predicts that by 2022, the majority of individuals in mature economies will encounter more false information than true information. The scary thing is that as content fabrication tools become more advanced, most of us won’t even be able to tell the difference.
Responding to the threat of AI
These threats are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AI development. And while it’s easy to view the looming threat of AI through a tongue-in-cheek perspective reminiscent of science fiction, there’s nothing fictional about how these technologies are slowly infiltrating our lives.
As a society, we’re still largely unaware of how AI is entering our lives and the risks it poses to unsecured data. Both companies and users need to get familiar with these technologies; this is doubly true for researchers and public figures who influence policy at the local and state levels.
While improved education and cybersecurity policies will naturally become a bigger necessity, it’s equally important for us consumers to be aware of these issues, acknowledge the risks that already exist, and stay up to date with how companies are leveraging AI to shape our futures.