Fear of the unknown is without a doubt one of the things that is universal to all humans, no matter where they come from, what language they speak, and how educated they might be. In days of old, this human fear manifested itself in the legends our ancestors told to one another. In the modern era, these ideas were rewritten into popular stories: Mary Shelly's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula are the first that come to mind. Fear dominates our thinking and our communication, from childhood when we exchange ghost stories, to when we're adults, standing in line at the cinema to watch the latest zombie apocalypse thriller.
Artificial intelligence, over the last few decades, has become a common theme as well. The challenges it presents for society is a trending topic all over the internet, and the negative consequences of AI tech make headlines on a daily basis. In the best Halloween tradition, therefore, we have decided to take a look at a few popular fears about AI that are actually coming true. Here is our list of five things that, in our opinion, may even be a bit scarier than a mummy coming back to life or a werewolf on a full moon (or maybe not...!).
Probably the first fear that the average person might mention when you ask them what they think of AI technology is the threat of job loss. According to the BBC, up to one-third of the workforce in developed nations could see their jobs phased out owing to automation in the relatively near future.
And it's not only blue-collar jobs that are going away. Finance, accounting and compliance specialists may be the first on the chopping block and, with Well Fargo predicting in a 2019 report that as many as 200,000 jobs could be cut in the banking industry alone. The Covid-19 pandemic has not helped the situation, with processes in everything from sales to HR being digitized and automated in order to reduce future risk.
One of the main societal issues over the next few decades is shaping up to be finding ways to deal with the massive number of people who will be pushed out of their jobs. Already, governments are considering things like the implementation of state-sponsored retraining programs. Well-known political activists like Andrew Yang in the United States and his international counterparts are gaining traction with suggestions of instituting a universal basic income for all citizens, no matter their income. Private companies are aiming to solve the re-education problem in their own way, and the Edtech industry seems, at the moment, to be flourishing as a result.
Regardless of what happens, major societal changes seem to be in the cards. Let's just say that the Dr. Victor Frankenstein of the 21st century is, more likely than not, a data scientist!
The AI use case that might have gotten the most press over the course of 2021 is 'deepfake' technology. A bigger fear than any ghost or phantom for many, deepfakes are fake pictures and audio generated using deep learning. The technology raises concern for its use in fake news, financial fraud, blackmailing and the development of obscene content.
The ramifications of deepfake photos and audio are still not clearly understood. On the one hand, the technology does allow for useful implementations, such as in the development of educational materials, or the production of interesting artistic and media content. On the other, the technology presents serious challenges to any industry or business that needs to remotely check the authenticity of clients or things.
It is with this use case though, that there is room for hope. Companies that need to verify things like identity documents, selfies, video files, and audio recordings in order to onboard customers will have to create better strategies. Combatting the deepfake problem will lead to the development of better technology overall.
Artificial intelligence is a data-hungry technology - hungrier for your information than a zombie for your brains! AI algorithms need to be kept fed with regular replenishment of data in order to improve through a process called machine learning. This can lead to unexpected consequences for individuals all over the world.
In the west, privacy violations are usually discussed within the context of social media and e-commerce. Facebook's approach to data, for example, is currently in the news. Elsewhere, encroachments go further with governments monitoring and controlling their citizens through massive, connected, digital ecosystems. Perhaps the most well known example of this is China's social credit system, which utilizes facial recognition technology to control the real lives of people that they are tracking online.
Add to the above regular data leaks and hacks, and you have yourself the potential for a range of horrific scenarios to unfold. We will have to see with time how exactly society will decide to deal with this issue, and just how drastically our lives may change in a new, privacy-free, world.
According to a budget passed in 2021, the US military is set to spend more than 850 million dollars on artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies over the next year. Publicly available information shows other major world powers not far behind, revealing an AI weapons arm race that is now going at full speed.
Nobody knows what will happen when an algorithm is in charge of deciding whether to shoot or to retreat. In a time where nuclear disarmament treaties worldwide have clearly failed and supersonic weaponry is being developed in every major military country, the fear is real. Activist and intergovernmental organizations have their work cut out for them.
Sometimes, the scariest things in life come from where you least expect, and that may very well be the case with artificial intelligence. Over the last decade or so, algorithmic trading, which involves training AI to buy and sell securities on financial markets, has become extremely popular. Billions of dollars of stocks and bonds are traded using the technology on a daily basis. This opens the door not only to volatility but also to the possibility of a market crash.
All it would take would be for some variable on the market to seem 'off' to the algorithm, and everything could go haywire. A sell off by human traders or even some kind of market manipulation could cause the AI to make some very strange decisions. What could result from such a situation would be disastrous: bankrupt companies, cashless governments, and economic strife throughout the developed world.
So, ultimately, is artificial intelligence a trick or treat? While we are sure there are many things to fear about AI, we also know that it is important to put things into context. The technology is without a doubt a useful tool in a variety of industries and disciplines. Everyday, it is used by doctors to save lives, civil engineers to improve our cities, and ecologists to find ways to protect our environment and save our planet.
Hopefully, with time, society will come to focus on the good things, rather than the bad. If you'd like to discuss the future of AI with some experts, make sure to get in contact with our team at Daiger.tech. We would love to chat about the value the technology can bring to your business.