The future of artificial intelligence: a threat or a helping hand?

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By Renata Konya
Self-driving cars, flying vehicles and the subjugation of humanity by robots have long been a reappearing and popular narrative of the sci-fi imagination. However, imagination has now become reality and we must face the fact that artificial intelligence (AI) has already become part of our daily lives even if we don’t always acknowledge it.

In their book, BetweenBrains, György Tilesch and Omar Hatamleh guide the readers through the challenges facing modern society. They try to answer questions concerning artificial intelligence like how to prepare the society for an AI-dominated era? How can AI help us and how can it endanger us? What ethical principles should be applied to the safe development of AI?

Intellectuals, tech company leaders, politicians and government officials have conflicting views on the exponentially developing AI and its impact on our everyday lives. “The book is a must-read for policy-makers and political leaders who wish to understand what principles should guide AI development, as well as presenting a useful map of key AI issues to a more general audience.” We must realize, this is a controversial topic, with several aspects that need to be considered before taking a position on the issue.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com

What is Artificial Intelligence and where is it used?

According to Lars Kotthoff, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, “Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.”

The history of AI dates to 1956 when the term “artificial intelligence” was coined at a conference at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Between 1957 and 1974, computer science had undergone unprecedented development. Computers could store more information which improved machine learning algorithms. As computers became faster, cheaper, and more accessible, AI started developing exponentially. Since then, developers have been making breakthroughs daily.

Experts put AI into three categories to indicate their level of performance. The first one is Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) – the current AI level. This refers to the computer’s ability to perform tasks with high efficiency such as creating a website or playing chess. The next category is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) where the computer performs intellectual tasks that a human could. Lastly, Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI), that refers to the condition in which a computer surpasses human intelligence.

Although AI is still rudimentary (compared to its expected future performance), it is already quite prominent. Siri and Alexa are only two of the many smart assistants built into our phones and homes. These softwares are capable of automatically performing tasks such as answering simple questions about the weather, traffic, etc.
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However, what many don’t know is that due to the constant behind the scenes updates and the computers’ ability to self-learn, these “simple” machines capture a myriad of data and information about us, making them capable of self-development. As a consequence, they can offer personalized advertisements and manipulate people to spend more money or brainwash them into following their instructions (e.g. voting for a specific political party).

While AI threats are present, AI also brings many benefits to technological development which greatly influence certain fields of life.

Where AI does / will benefit us

Transport and trade, education, health, and construction are the main areas where applied artificial intelligence can benefit humans the most. Firstly, self-driving cars and trucks can facilitate and speed up land trade. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, hundreds of thousands of accidents involving trucks occur every year. The greatest risk of accidents is human inattention and the lack of concentration, which could be almost completely ruled out with automated vehicles. Eliminating road accidents caused by human error will decrease delivery time, which will lead to lower prices.

In education, AI can make a huge difference as outdated 19th-century education systems do not consider the individual abilities and needs of students. AI would allow everyone to progress at their own pace with the curriculum. AI learning systems also provide psychological assistance to certain students. Continuous examination and analysis of the curriculum by the AI allows up-to-date and relevant information to form the knowledge to be transferred to students.

AI in healthcare will make an enormous impact in the fields of quality, efficiency, and performance. Growing datasets allow the development of new drugs and gene therapies, and through unsupervised learning, in-depth algorithms in AI systems will be much more effective in identifying certain trends in medicine. A lesser-known fact is that AI models have been used to identify Covid-19 in patients.

“This highly advanced artificial intelligence model further helps our ability to precisely detect COVID-19 patients. In addition, such a model can be applied for diagnosis of other diseases using different imaging modalities,” said researcher Samad Ahadian, Ph.D, “artificial intelligence-driven models with diagnostic and predictive capabilities are a powerful tool that is an important part of our research platforms.”