Artificial intelligence (AI) can be defined as computers and machines that perform functions similar to that of a human and try to imitate the human brain. In the journal article, Effect or Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics Girdhar Shendre, Rajashri Tiwari, and Janhvi Dhomne sort out the functions of AI into six different components. They state them to be learning, vision, problem solving, logical reasoning, machine learning, and AI in medicine (Shendre 45-46). AI has been evolving and continues to evolve into a regular part of our functioning society. We see it in our daily lives even when we don’t realize it. No matter if it’s at work, on the way to work, or even at home, AI has become commonplace. It can easily be seen to have numerous positive benefits, as well as having plenty of drawbacks in the daily lives of members of our functioning society. Through analyzing the history, present situation, and possible future of AI in our world, I will expose both the pros and cons of all these aspects.
The remarkable progression of AI over time has led to the advanced state it is in today. The 1940s truly gave birth to a whole new era of AI, since technology of computers were geining popularity and attention. Simple computing machines at the time were referred to as machines that could think, even at the simplest level of computations. The groundwork for the future of AI was starting to be laid out. In Michael Haenlein’s and Andreas Kaplan’s journal article A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence: On the Past, Present, and Future of Artificial Intelligence they discuss a story written in 1942 in which some rules of robotics are stated:
Isaac Asimov published his short story Runaround. The plot of Runaround—a story about a robot developed by the engineers Gregory Powell and Mike Donavan—revolves around the Three Laws of Robotics: (1) a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; (2) a robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; and (3) a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
As can be seen with the developments of AI over time, these laws have been followed and the only goal of developing AI has just been for the benefit of society. In 1950, Alan Turing developed a test to determine exactly how intelligent a machine is. On the most basic level, the test states that if a human is interacting with a robot and is unable to distinguish it from a real human then the machine is intelligent (Haenlein and Kaplan 7). The term “artificial intelligence” itself was officially coined by John McArthy in 1956, showing the concept’s growing prevalence.
AI creeped its way into the regular lives of people during the late 20th century in several ways. With manufacturing jobs, certain dangerous assembly line positions were replaced by robots. This can first be seen in 1961 with General Motors making UNIMATE, which performed welding jobs deemed dangerous for people. The next major advancement in the world of AI was ELIZA, the first machine to successfully pass the Turing test, according to Haenlein and Kaplan. This computer program, designed and developed by Joseph Weizenbaum, was made to act as a psychotherapist. This was basically the first version of human interactive programs like Siri and Alexa that can be seen in everyday life now. ELIZA, the original interactive AI, was capable of holding digital conversations with real people, and was just the beginning of many human-imitating technologies that were seen in the years following it. AI was gaining enough attention to start being featured in entertainment. This can first be seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film produced in 1968 where the AI system on the spaceship ends up malfunctioning and turning on the passengers. This was the beginning of movies being made featuring robots turning on humans, almost as if these movies were made as a warning to society. The advanced developments being made caused people to question them and look for possible pitfalls, as with any new trend. Yet, the advancements in AI technology over its history have been harmless and only have been made for the benefit of society. Though, can that be said for the point where artificial intelligence has progressed to in current times?
The year is 2019, and some technologies we are seeing today seem like things from a sci-fi movie. Artificial intelligence has reached new levels and now anyone in a first-world society probably sees it or uses it on a daily basis. Some of the most mainstream ones we are seeing today are things like self-driving cars, face ID, and even in the medical world. In recent years, self-driving cars have been gaining popularity and attention, yet there are opposing viewpoints on the safety of this AI technology. Basically, in self driving cars you would enter the destination in a built in GPS and the car uses sensors and cameras to drive as a human would. The sensors see what objects or vehicles are near the car to prevent collision. In Shendre’s article it states that the vision aspect of AI “analyzes and interprets visual input on the computer”. This can be seen in self driving cars in the way that they read street signs and traffic lights so the car knows the speed limit, when to stop, etc. This could, however, be dangerous because sometimes there might be something blocking important street signs and it could end badly for the driver. Some “drivers” of these cars have been seen even sleeping behind the wheel of the car. These cars, of course, could be argued to be flawless in the way that computers don’t make mistakes and they have immediate reaction time, unlike humans. In Edith Miheala Dobrescu and Emilian M. Dobrescu’s journal article Artificial Intelligence(ai)-the Technology That Shapes the World, It is stated “Google’s smart car has driven 1.8 million miles and has been involved in 13 accidents – all caused by other cars” This shows that in a practical use of this technology, the only errors that could occur are caused solely by human drivers. The number of these cars are rapidly increasing, which can make them even safer because they could communicate with each other and increase the other cars learning and knowledge.
Now this example just seems like a great advancement of our society’s technology and is nothing but a convenient feature of our daily commutes. But other ways AI is being used today are quite prone to plenty of criticism. Face ID is seen on the new iPhone as a quick and easy way of unlocking your phone, but this technology isn’t as innocent as it seems. In recent years, China has been developing what is called a social credit system. This system, mainly driven by automation, uses surveillance cameras to watch citizens of China and either rewards points for good behavior or deducts points for bad behavior. This bad behavior doesn’t even have to be anything illegal, as stated in the article, Hi-tech dystopia or low-key incentive scheme? The complex reality of China’s social credit system from the South China Morning Post. This article says, “points are deducted for bad behaviour such as littering or neglecting the care of elderly parents.” When you lose points, you could be charged more money for basic living needs and even lose privileges such as being allowed to buy plane and/or train tickets. The entirety of this system completely revolves around the incredibly advanced face ID technology used in China, which is targeted to reach around 90% accuracy. In another article from the South China Morning Post, Drones, facial recognition and a social credit system: 10 ways China watches its citizens, Zhou Jiaquan cites the New York Times reporting that China has over 200 million surveillance cameras, even in private businesses and in some cases people’s homes. This mass amount of cameras uses the incredible face ID technology to match up faces of citizens to a database of 1.3 billion people. This shows how when AI becomes too advanced, it can be abused and end up negatively affecting many people’s quality of life. The last major facet of our society that is being invaded by AI is the world of medicine. With this usage of computers, there are concerns over the possibility of it ending terribly because lives are on the line, yet also hope of a future where the world of medical care could be truly improved. There are numerous new systems have been designed to perform roles that a human doctor usually would. There are some currently in use that are used to diagnostics. These systems are able to diagnose certain infections and diseases. Though not only can they diagnose, they can even provide prescription plans and inform the patient of what medication they should be taking. It is indeed a possible danger that someone could be diagnosed and prescribed incorrectly, but these systems are incredibly comprehensive and hold an unfathomable amount of medical information, so the chances are slim to none. With this advancement doctors will need not spend as much time with the less significant medical issues and wait times at hospitals could even end up decreasing. Computer systems have also been developed to be able to detect cancerous tumors or other issues that a doctor might miss while examining an MRI or CT scan. This again goes to show how systems like this can be more efficient and more flawless than humans.
Our current level of AI technology might seem awfully futuristic, but it will only continue to grow and become even more advanced. The growth of the advancement of AI seems to be exponential, showing how the future of AI might be even sooner than we could have ever imagined, and more advanced than we would ever expect. The main aspect of this that the future could hold for our everyday lives is in the workforce. Robots could easily become capable of taking any single job that humans are doing in our current society. This includes manufacturing jobs, banking jobs, customer service jobs, and many more. The number of industrial robots has increased immensely in the past few years and the top-selling robots have been used in manufacturing, and if this trend continues it can be a major issue for blue-collar workers. Although these robots are substantially more efficient than people in industries with constantly growing demands, the economy will suffer from fewer people being able to work to make money to support their families. In the financial world, the future could hold a massive increase in automated bank tellers, as well as AI that can file taxes, perform audits, and much more. This can end up making physical banks and financial services obsolete. Even part-time jobs are likely to face threats in the future, as McDonalds and other culinary businesses have incorporated an automated self-order system, already drastically reducing the need for cashiers. These are decreasing the overall need for workers in positions like these. With our growing population, this will lead to many people being out of a job. From the eyes of the CEOs and employers, automation is a blessing. Robots don’t need consistent pay, never need time off, and are more reliable than flawed humans. However, the workforce is what drives society as a whole and without it we will all face serious consequences.
The growth of AI has been unprecedented and has improved and popularized so immensely in such a short time period. The technologies we have today present incredible new levels of convenience in our everyday lives. There are safe and practical uses of it in the world of general convenience and daily life. Yet, it can be seen going way too far in places like China, where the people living there are seeing direct negative consequences. AI can and should step in for humans in situations where human error could wind up ending is death or disaster. We, as a constantly advancing society, must be cautious moving forward so AI doesn’t end up replacing humans in ways that would harm the economy and our culture. AI plays a crucial role in certain facets of society, and we should continue to allow machines to help with certain functions. But in the end, humanity is the machine that keeps the world moving because without humans, there would be no technology at all. Every person has a role and every machine has a role, and it is our job as a society to properly figure out what those roles are.