Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat to Humans?

Looking back two decades ago, the way we used to perform our day-to-day activities was quite different from how they are now. How quickly things have changed is demonstrated by how antiquated we feel about even relatively modern computer technology today. Computers have advanced so swiftly and become such a crucial part of our everyday lives in such a short amount of time that it is simple to lose sight of how new this technology is. Some computer scientists have worked to create machines that are as intelligent as humans since the invention of computers. This study of making machines capable of thinking and working just like humans is termed ‘artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence has become the talk of the town lately. Its applications have expanded in almost every business vertical, so much so that the future seems abundant with AI-powered devices and endless possibilities. A study by PwC revealed that around 52% of companies accelerated their adoption of AI initiatives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, 86% of the companies agreed that AI is now becoming a mainstream technology at their company.

This trend is supported by the latest release of the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Semiannual Artificial Intelligence Tracker. It states that the worldwide revenues for the AI market (which includes hardware, software, and services) are forecast to grow 16.4% Y-o-Y in 2021 to 327.5 billion. No wonder people are now willing to step into this career domain as it presents a large number of job opportunities. An AI program online is further helping them gain the right skills and become ready for a corporate job.

Though AI seems to be a promising career option, many are of the view that AI is promoting automation which will affect many manual jobs. The growing automation may lead to many job roles becoming obsolete. So, a section of people consider artificial intelligence a threat to their jobs. Beyond just jobs, AI is thought to overpower humans in the future and may lead to undesirable consequences. This leads us to a serious question as to whether artificial intelligence is really a threat to humans. Let us throw some light on this topic in this article.

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Is AI a Threat? 

When we look at the current applications of AI, they do not seem to possess a threat to humans. Some of the applications that we see now are autonomous cars, recommendation engines of several mobile applications, facial recognition software, image recognition, chatbots, and natural language processing. The possibilities of these applications are generally very specific, and though all of these applications tend to reach more accuracy than humans, they do not possess any significant risk to humans or jobs in general. Such kinds of applications powered by AI that we witness today come under the category of narrow or weak AI.

What humans seem to be afraid of comes under another category of AI called Artificial General Intelligence or AGI. It is under this category that AI-powered machines are thought of performing different tasks by applying human-like intelligence. Looking at how fast the narrow AI is growing, scientists believe that the day is not far away when we will actually witness Artificial General Intelligence.

As far as we know, AGI learns from facts and experiences. This implies that experts might not be able to fully estimate how AI systems will respond when presented with a novel scenario that it has never encountered.

It is important to note that there are no laws created around AI at present. Suppose there is some damage done to humans because of AI-powered machines. This could undermine people’s faith in technology, and a company might then not have any motivation to create a high-quality product that makes use of AI. Moreover, governments may introduce new rules related to this technology that may prove to be overly tight and can restrict innovation. Anything with possibly harmful effects would be properly evaluated and have numerous safety checks, just like with existing manufactured systems.

There are concerns related to the objectivity and integrity of AI-powered systems as well. It is known that AI systems involve the analysis of huge data sets, and they continuously model user input and interaction data to adapt. In such a situation, can a company guarantee that the AI algorithms’ initial training is impartial? There is a possibility that a business can create a bias (intentionally or unintentionally) through the training data in favor of specific user or customer classes. 

Another concern surrounds the privacy and security of user data when AI is implemented. Today, we have seen how hackers get access to sensitive customer information and compromise them for personal gains. If a city is powered with AI systems across areas, then even if a user is not using any smartphone and stays offline, his information can be gathered through a network of AI-powered cameras. If a malicious hacker then compromises a smart system, then the consequences might be catastrophic.

Overall, we can say that the current applications of AI or narrow AI need to be evaluated for potential risks. Before AGI can be introduced, proper laws around this technology should be prioritized by governments across the world. Failing to do so may bring in more threats due to artificial intelligence.

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