Artificial intelligence, or AI, no longer simply exists in science fiction movies and books. Scientists warn AI has and will continue to change almost every aspect of how people conduct business and live. Researchers say artificial intelligence can be a threat, as well as helpful, to humans.
From the iPhone personal assistant Siri, to doing searches on the Internet, to the autopilot function, simple artificial intelligence has been around for some time, but is quickly getting more complex and more intelligent.
”If we are going to make systems that are going to be more intelligent than us, it’s absolutely essential for us to understand how to absolutely guarantee that they only do things that we are happy with,” said Stuart Russell, computer science professor at the University of California Berkeley.
He said many present-day jobs that are labor intensive, such as agricultural jobs, or repetitive tasks such as call centers, or even jobs that require data analysis, such as in the financial industry, will be replaced by machines with artificial intelligence.
”But if we replaced all the jobs that require human physical labor and then we replace all the jobs that require human mental labor, then you have to ask, 'What’s left?'” Russell asked.
IBM’s Chief Science Officer of Cognitive Computing Guruduth Banavar sees a future in which new jobs such as data engineering will be created.
”The future will require everybody to work with these learning reasoning machines. So I think the skill set for many of these jobs will end up being different in the future,” Banavar said.
Russell envisions that AI will change the economy and the current way of life.
“Most people will be employed, possibly even self-employed, in providing individualized personal services to other human beings, that we won’t have mass employment in manufacturing or in financial services,” said Russell. “The kinds of scenarios where there is a giant factory or a giant office building with thousands of people doing the same thing will go away.”
Artificial intelligence is already transforming the health care industry. AI can process huge amounts of data and have the most up-to-date research to help doctors diagnose and treat patients.
IBM’s Watson technology is already in hospitals in North and South America, Europe and Asia.
“The different between going to a doctor who has Watson versus not having Watson is very big, because when you go to a doctor today you might find somebody who is 10 years out of date,” said Banavar.
There is also a dangerous side of artificial intelligence, using drone technology and AI to create autonomous weapons.
”The risk with autonomous weapons is that people will use them as a kind of poor man’s weapon of mass destruction - a poor man’s nuclear weapon,” said Russell, who advocates for the international community to create treaties to ban autonomous weapons.
“It is a race against time because the weapons are starting to emerge, the research is moving into development, development is moving into production,” Russell said.
Impact on Society
Banavar has a more optimistic view of the impact of artificial intelligence on society. He said examples of benefits include the autopilot function and search engines.
“I’m very firmly in the camp that says AI is a friend and that it is going to be beneficial to humanity. In fact, I see not having AI as a really bad thing for humanity,” Banavar said.
While it is up for debate whether artificial intelligence will overall hurt or benefit mankind, researchers agree it is a fact that the technology is and will continue to transform many aspects of life.