Artificial intelligence is something which sci-fi writers and publishers have loved to hypothesise about for well over a century now, but with current technology this is becoming a reality. Already in many parts of the world we’re beginning to see consumer level A.I. with self-teaching machines and driverless cars. But the question many people are asking is; is A.I. going to be a good thing for the world, or is it going to cause more harm than it’s worth? There are very few people who believe that the answer is somewhere in the middle.
Though A.I. began as a fantasy in the late 1800’s, pioneers like Elon Musk are making it a very real aspect of our daily lives today. Machines and computers today can be programmed with planning, learning, perception, and reasoning along with their long standing knowledge. A.I. doesn’t necessarily mean robots, simply machines that display true intelligence, and the science has been worked on for decades now. Even the base level A.I. found on modern smartphones is extraordinary, seen through voice commands like Siri. Most people agree that this level of A.I. is not bad for society, but it’s hard to find the distinction where people class something as true artificial intelligence.
Most experts agree that the line between scientific A.I. and ‘public perception’ of A.I. is when a machine or computer can learn from its actions; this is commonly known as ‘machine learning’. Most forms of A.I. found today already utilize a form of machine learning, but this is only currently a basic form. Self-driving cars are a very recent invention, and their safety is better than that of a human driver; machine judgements’ are improving as time goes on.
A.I. suffers the same double edged sword that all technology does at the start of its creation; it creates new jobs and destroys old ones. May jobs have been replaced by basic forms of A.I. and this trend is only going to get worse as time goes on. Most factory and manufacturing work in first world countries used to be done by people, whereas now most is done by machines. These machines need maintenance, but other than that they tend to replace people in their jobs quickly and efficiently.
Even long standing jobs suitable to almost anyone are beginning to be replaced by A.I. Delivery jobs are now starting to be replaced by drone usage, meaning many jobs as companies like Amazon and their affiliates are being made redundant. Taxis drivers are the new major one, with driverless taxis popping up all over the world with automated payment through companies like Uber. A.I. is convenient, safe, and overall cheaper, but it is definitely replacing many jobs.
One of the many upsides to A.I. is the fact that machines are now always more precise than humans, seen with everything from present wrapping to surgeries. Statistically speaking, it is much safer to have a computer controlled surgery than one from a person. No hand-shakes, tremors, slipping grip, leaving things behind, misidentification, the list goes on. And because these machines analyse their patients as they work, they can share with other machines and make their surgeries better in future; something only a few doctors would be able to learn from if one in their hospital found something.
Medical A.I. is brilliant, and has already been successfully used for decades; blood tests and stool samples can be analysed in a fraction of the time a person would take, and maintenance is automatically flagged when samples are obscured.
A.I. is going to be a slow transition, but that does not mean the world will end up like an Isaac Asimov novel, more that the machines can simply be more precise than we can. It’s a good thing for society, and might be the turning point in our civilization.