By Darshan Goswami, MS, PE >
“Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before—as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial.” —Max Tegmark, president of the Future of Life Institute, at futureoflife.org
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging tool that enables us to more effectively integrate information, analyze data, and use the resulting insights to improve decision making. Extraordinary advances in AI are occurring daily. For instance, robots and driverless cars are becoming increasingly common.
AI is already driving a new wave of economic progress, solving some of the world’s most difficult problems and providing solutions to some of the most profound challenges in human history. AI has the potential to transform many sectors such as information technology, telecommunications, transportation, traffic management, health care, education, criminal justice, defense, banking, and agriculture.
To realize its full potential, governments need to create public policy that fosters AI innovation while mitigating unintended societal consequences. As AI advances deeper into everyday use, it also raises concerns about possible negative impacts on jobs, personal privacy, society, the economy, and politics.
It is estimated about 50 percent of existing menial jobs will be done by automation and robotics within the next 15 years. But, if companies need fewer workers due to AI, what happens to the humans who once held those jobs? Without adequate safeguards or the incorporation of ethical considerations, the AI utopia can quickly turn into dystopia.2 This statement is from a recent news item: “A group of EU experts just published Ethics Guidelines for AI. The European Commission aims to make them a standard for Europe and the whole world. However, these guidelines are not binding, and not meant to be enforced. Europe is not alone in the quest for ethics in AI. Over the past few years, countries like Canada and Japan have published AI strategies that contain ethical principles.”1
What is AI?
AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence by computer systems. Artificial intelligence is not the same as machine learning—a process by which a computer can learn a skill. AI refers to a computer that can “think” for itself. AI can encompass anything from Google’s search algorithms to IBM’s Watson to autonomous devices.1
In addition to creating new jobs, AI can also help people do their jobs easier and better—a lot better. A project undertaken by Price Waterhouse Coopers estimated that “artificial intelligence technologies could increase global GDP by $15.7 trillion, a full 14 percent, by 2030.” A 2017 study from Redwood Software and Sapio Research concluded that 60 percent of businesses could be automated in the next 5 years.
There are numerous examples where AI is already augmenting human capabilities in significant ways. In stock exchanges, for instance, high-frequency trading by machines has replaced much of human decision making. AI is and can be used more to solve an array of environmental problems such as climate changes, and is now being used in agricultural applications such as weed-picking, seed planting, and harvesting, as well as natural calamities prediction. AI will also do many hazardous jobs in the future. Several companies are trying to build a robot that can act as a human companion helper, and China is using AI to improve healthcare and speed up diagnoses.
China dominates in global AI funding and is investing a lot in this futuristic technology for everything from smart agriculture and intelligent logistics to emergency applications.
For businesses, AI frees people to use their creativity for verification, validity, security and control. AI is currently used in manufacturing, construction, rescue operations, personal security, and speech recognition, as well as in customer service and support and as a smart home manager.
Nobody can predict what an AI future will bring, but perhaps we can all agree that AI could create more jobs than it displaces. Those whose jobs might be affected may find they can transition into jobs supervising or maintaining the AI systems, relieving them of manual labor. By offering new tools for entrepreneurs and artists, AI may also create new lines of business that we can’t imagine now.
It is quite obvious that interacting with AI is already an everyday activity. AI can be used to tackle profoundly difficult problems and find solutions that are important to human wellbeing. These developments are and will be generating substantial economic and social benefits. At the same time, AI poses one of the greatest ethical challenges as we incorporate it as a collective into our lives.
AI has the potential to move civilization forward in progressive ways. But the way AI systems are developed needs to be better communicated, discussed, and understood due to the major implications the technology will have for society as a whole.
The possibilities of AI are endless. Its future will be created and lived by everyone to one degree or another, and it will influence the choices we make and the actions we take. While the revolutionary technologies of AI have the potential to become the single most influential human innovations in history, we have no way of predicting all the ways in which they will positively affect our lives. But, with appropriate safeguards, we can ensure that AI systems are intentional, intelligent, and adaptable without sacrificing the important qualities that define humanity.3 ?
Darshan Goswami, MS, has more than 40 years of experience in the energy field. He worked as a Project Manager for Renewable Energy, Micro-grid and Smart Grid projects at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in Pittsburgh. He is a registered professional electrical engineer with a passion and commitment to promote, develop, and deploy renewable energy resources and the hydrogen economy. In dedication to his life of service, the author supports the India Foundation for Children Education and Care, Inc. (http://www.ifcare.org/).
1. “Europe’s Quest For Ethics In Artificial Intelligence,” https://www.forbes.com/sites/washingtonbytes/2019/04/11/europes-quest-for-ethics-in-artificial-intelligence/#710713187bf9
2. Max Tegmark: Benefits & Risks of Artificial Intelligence
3. What is artificial intelligence? Brookings Institution
Does Anyone Have to Labor for a Living? (Consider the lilies of the field…they do not toil…)
“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to [learn more] and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
—R Buckminster Fuller, from an interview by Elizabeth Barlow, conducted with a panel of leading thinkers concerned with social responsibility and originally published in New York Magazine March 30, 1970, page 30.