The increasing use of Artificial Intelligence in technology will transform our societies for the worse

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Human intelligence has proven to be one of the best among the creatures of the earth, and this can be seen in their intelligent behavior that involves reasoning, learning, perception, communication, and other characteristics. As such, this intelligence has led to the creation of technology or what can be better said as Artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been born through the use of humanity’s desire to achieve what was once seen as impossible by testing boundaries of the abstract with new technologies that include robotics, nanotech, and genetic engineering. From a technological perspective, AI is meant to make work easier for humans, case in point the facial recognition technology, self-driven cars and the many other technologies involved in machine intelligence. From every point of view, it is possible that one will notice AI in motion, from transportation to the industries to finance where things like monitoring the share market for trading activities that look suspicious are done by programmed machines. But what happens when these machines get to be more intelligent than humans is a question posed by many including prominent persons like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking (Stobing, 2015). AI has made an entrance into practically every aspect of the society in both predicted and some unexpected ways that have led to excitement as well as fear. With people like Ray Kurzweil predicting 2045 as the year of singularity where machines will be programmed to do everything that man can do, what dangers then does this prospect put on the human kind (Vardi, 2012)? Shortly put, it puts humanity on the brink of destruction since AI can only be trusted when under the control of humans and not when it is in control.

To begin with, Elson Musk likened AI to “summoning the demon” while Stephen Hawking delivered a warning that AI could “spell the end of the human race. (Adams, 2016)” These sentiments were shared by Bill Gates who recently said that “I agree with Elson Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned. (Adams, 2016)” It is important to note that AI can be classified as dangerous in two forms; the financial effects and the effect it would have when placed in the wrong hands, this according to Faggella, (2016). Take Google’s facial recognition program for example where if under the wrong tutelage, can be disastrous to humanity. Facial recognition technology today is widely being used in CCTV cameras across the streets and buildings all over the world. Vardi, (2012) gives an excellent example of the British Secret Service’s “Karma Police” that was accused of screening everyone’s use of the internet. Human targets could be made out of the system if placed in the hands of malicious people.

These manipulative technologies like nudging are performed on millions of people by accessing their private data without their knowledge. Since it is done in secret, there is no transparency or any ethical constraints about the exercises their-in. A good example is when the CIA used such a system to spy on prominent people across the globe. Large social media platforms like Facebook and OkCupid have in the past admitted to undertaking such social experiments (Zwitter et al., 2017). It is such irresponsible research on the society and humans that confirm AI as a risk factor to humanity. One would argue that facial recognition is coined to improve security and ensure the safety of everyone. That the technology can help security personnel and the police in tracking down people of interest but even so, it fails to take away the fact that a lot of personal information is laid out to people with malevolent intentions. Persuasive computing, one would say was generated to retain order among societies and make sure that people behave in accordance to what is required.

But the truth is that this technology and others same as the one used by Facebook can be used to determine behavior that is not controlled by society. If the system is eroded from the inside as it is widely happening, institutions are then at liberty to do things without any democratic control. For example, recommendation systems and search algorithms could be influenced at any given time (Zwitter et al., 2017). Governments can use this technology to win elections by influencing the support of the electorate in their favor. They would simply be nudging themselves in power. Countries like China and Singapore today are using the system on their citizens, and they range from frequent credit checks, online shops having personalized prices. China is even using what they call a “Citizen Score” to determine who is legible to get a job, loan, visa and many other things. The fact that a single search engine or platform on social media has a dominant market share is evidence enough that the society can easily be influenced and manipulated (Zwitter et al., 2017).

Other than prying on the personal lives of people, AI can easily lead to a political upheaval across the globe. With each passing day, better and advanced autonomous robotic weapons are being created. This means that with this technology, there will be an increase in an accidental war with militaries across the world deploying unmanned systems in high threat environments (theconversation.com, 2017). Given such circumstances, robots may start wars with humans having no chance to veto the decision. With everyone being hacked today since some of the most important institutions like the CIA, NASA, and even the Pentagon have been victims, the use of automated weapons can be a disaster to the whole world. These weapons can easily be hacked into by corrupt countries and be controlled to cause mass destruction to enemies. Terror groups and other like-minded societies can also take it to their advantage and use these weapons to rain terror on other countries (Vardi, 2012).

One would, however, argue that killer robots are a revolution in warfare and that the society is moving away from nuclear bombs and gunpowder. Countries developing these weapons could claim to be doing so for security purposes in a bid to protect itself from enemies. One may also argue that these weapons are covered by humanitarian law and so are not dangerous. It is also said by the proponents of automated arms that they are programmed to attack and fight without causing casualties. In as much as everyone wants to believe that these weapons are for the good of the society, then retaking a step and realizing that said arms are computerized, meaning that the same system can be manipulated for the worst. Faggella says that these weapons can easily destroy humanity if programmed otherwise.

Automation has led to a development of machines that have taken up positions in the industry sector. Going back to the 19th century, one would find that machines were being used alongside humans and competing with human brawn. The situation is different today with machines competing human brain hence out-competing and taking up most of the jobs previously held by humans. This is translated for example in the fact that 70% of financial transactions are being performed by algorithms. That in the next 10-20 years half of the jobs occupied by humans today stand the risk of being taken over by algorithms. That will lead to nearly 40% of the top 500 companies today vanishing in a decade’s time (Zwitter et al., 2017).  Intelligent machines are growing in power while at the same time their cost is decreasing which means that they are now being used widely and in their droves (Bandholz, 2016). They are more reliable now in some areas than humans. For example, Nissan pledges that by the end of the decade, it will deliver driverless cars, Rolls-Royce promises unmanned ships while Amazon says that electric drones will be able to deliver packages to customers. All these mean that the economic sector is changing for the worst and at a fast rate with the use of machines being at the root of it all. A lot of employment positions are being swept down the trench by this influx hence living many people jobless. For instance, the US has an employment rate of over 10%, and it keeps on rising by the day (Kelly, 2014).

According to Kelly, an economist Tyler Cowen speculates that the future of employment belongs to a gilt 10-15% of workers whose skills will supplement intelligent machines but then the rest are said to be doomed to long-term stagnation or even worse. The economist says that the harsh labor market experience that the young have experienced over recent years is just but a taster of what is yet to come. That there is a growing number of low-skilled workers that are unemployable and that there will not exist a wage that will be worth employing them. She predicts migration to areas with cheap housing, low taxes, and crumbling infrastructure. It is true that machines have made work easier and have perfected where humans excelled in the business industry (Kelly, 2014). It is also true that with machine intelligence, productivity has increased in institutions that have deployed its services. Which means that the GDPs of countries that have mainly employed the use of intelligent machines in the last few decades like China has improved tremendously. But while this is happening, the world is overlooking the rate at which people are losing their jobs to these machines (Vardi, 2012). Companies don’t see the need to hire and pay someone for a job that can be done by a programmed machine with much efficiency. In as much as the use of intelligence, machines are providing the necessary returns; it is also hurting many and the nations that have to feed the growing number of unemployed. In an open letter to the AI Community in 2015, Stephen Hawking wrote “One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. (Stobing, 2015)”.

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  1. Adams, R. (2016). Forbes Welcome. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertadams/2016/03/25/is-artificial-intelligence-dangerous/2/#5c570a41afce [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
  2. Bandholz, H. (2016). The economic and social consequences of robotization. [online] Jobs and Development. Available at: https://blogs.worldbank.org/jobs/peoplemove/peoplemove/economic-and-social-consequences-robotization [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
  3. Faggella, D. (2016). Exploring the risks of artificial intelligence. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2016/03/21/exploring-the-risks-of-artificial-intelligence/ [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
  4. Kelly, G. (2014). The robots are coming. Will they bring wealth or a divided society?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/04/robots-future-society-drones [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
  5. Stobing, C. (2015). How Artificial Intelligence Will Change Our Lives, for Better or Worse. [online] Howtogeek.com. Available at: https://www.howtogeek.com/223222/how-artificial-intelligence-will-change-our-lives-for-better-or-worse/ [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
  6. The Conversation. (2015). Your questions answered on artificial intelligence. [online] Available at: http://theconversation.com/your-questions-answered-on-artificial-intelligence-49645 [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
  7. Vardi, M. (2012). The Consequences of Machine Intelligence. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/the-consequences-of-machine-intelligence/264066/ [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
  8. Zwitter, A., Frey, B., Zicari, R., van den Hoven, J., Hofstetter, Y., Hagner, M., Hafen, E., Gigerenzer, G. and Helbing, D. (2017). Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?. [online] Scientific American. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/will-democracy-survive-big-data-and-artificial-intelligence/ [Accessed 25 Jun. 2017].
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