Have you ever thought about what the future will be like? It is likely you have, of course, because just about everyone does. We especially like watching movies that predict the future because they are so fascinating and they feed into our imagination, but we also know that sci-fi films tend to overreach in terms of expectations of the future.
But now that Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has really advanced, today, we really can imagine far-fetched ideas because they really are not so very far-fetched after all.
As Misha Kabir notes, “AI is the future and is already part of our everyday life. Be it voice recognition assistance with Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, or algorithms that filter your spam emails, recommend a film to you on Netflix, screen your bank account transactions for fraud, or get your auto-pilot flight smoothly to your next holiday destination, chances are you have already experienced AI.”
These are just some of the basic applications of AI in our lives, but there is so much more potential.
Kabir points to AI as the main avenue through which we can improve our healthcare system, including, for example, reducing administrative burden and increasing patient-doctor contact, enhancing clinician diagnosis, enhancing monitoring of chronic conditions and patient self-management, and predicting future medical events.
Besides healthcare, AI can have a tremendous impact on education, fighting crime, predicting the weather, the economy, retail, and just about anything else that is part of our daily lives.
Today, AI is already very much a part of our lives, and it is only expected to become more involved - or intrusive - according to critics.
But, first things first. As much as it seems so, AI is not new. According to Peter A. Henning, Jacqueline Henning and Katharina Glück in the Journal of European CME, “extensive research on AI systems has been going on since its kick-off at the famous 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence, a summer school organised by John McCarthy and Claude Shannon.”
In fact, the concept of AI has been around for a long time.
Writing for Springer in an article titled, “What can science fiction tell us about the future of artificial intelligence policy?” Andrew Dana Hudson, Ed Finn and Ruth Wylie note that “Perhaps more than any other technology, artificial intelligence has been entangled with science fiction and mythologies of technology from the beginning.”
They add, “Alan Turing’s thought experiments of the Turing Machine and the Turing Test, the ethical robots of Isaac Asimov’s imagination, and the early robotic prototypes and rhetoric of the cybernetics movement in the 1940s and 1950s could all be framed as technically grounded, speculative stories about AI.”
Clearly, AI has sat on the minds of many people over the last few decades and its potential pushes scientists and engineers to explore its many possible applications.
But there are downsides.
“Perhaps the most commonly discussed policy challenge posed by AI technology is bias,” say Hudson, Finn and Wylie. “AI systems, such as facial recognition or predictive policing, are often built on datasets developed through already-biased practices. If racist policing practices lead to more arrests in low-income and non-white neighborhoods, an algorithm predicting crime or criminality in that neighborhood will make that racial bias a part of how it sees the world. Similar, less egregious examples proliferate throughout the AI tech space, from algorithms used for hiring and processing insurance claims to biased language used in natural language processing (NLP) algorithms.”
They point out that other researchers conducted a study that found that AI systems “were likely to assume that a ‘doctor’ was male and a ‘nurse’ was female. Systems connected masculine names to concepts like ‘career,’ ‘professional,’ and ‘salary,’ and feminine names to words like ‘wedding’ and ‘parents’. These are sexist human assumptions that have crept into our machines…”
Equally concerning, Meta’s AI chatbot has promoted the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jewish people control the world’s economy, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Does AI have a way to go? It most certainly does. As long as it mirrors the sentiments held by human beings such as the above cases of bias, sexism, and antisemitism, then AI will not serve as a great tool for everything in the future.
But if data scientists and engineers can work out the kinks, mankind in the future will indeed benefit greatly from the amazing world of AI.