What are the real pros and cons of artificial intelligence (AI) and do we really understand them?
This article is just my opinion on a subject that is dear to my heart — I love technology and have been around it for many years, so I am well aware of the benefits, the good, and how it can and should, hugely benefit society.
But what happens when things go wrong?
I first came across AI way back in the early 90s, when a business colleague of mine was banging on incessantly about it and how the future will be shaped by it.
He was right, of course, but it was a hard pill to swallow when we were still in the throes of experiencing digitization in everyday life.
Now, many people talk about digitization and the Internet Of Things (IoT), hoping to educate and prepare us all for a new, connected world…but I hate to disappoint those experts who are trying to charge small fortunes for telling us what we really already know.
We’ve been digital for decades and the IoT is simply a play on words…to me anyway.
It was a guy called Nicholas Negroponte, who came out with a phrase some moons ago:
“I’ve seen the future and it works.”
It resonated with me immediately and now my business colleague’s comments about AI fell into place — I just needed a different perspective I guess!
I’m not going to go into detail defining AI, as there are plenty of articles out there, like the one I have linked to that will explain it way better than I can, because I am more interested in the implications of AI, rather than how it was created and the mechanics of it.
I am also very concerned about who is going to control the development and implementation of AI, because to me, this is where the real threat lies — the threat of AI having the capacity to wipe out the human race!
A few years ago, I talked briefly about how humans could future-proof themselves, against the threat of AI…but we have moved so far forward in just a few years and things are now starting to develop at a much faster pace.
Or, rather, we are seeing the reality unfold in front of us, very quickly.
A New Connected Smart World
About twenty years ago, I had many journalists asking me questions about how the future looks, in relation to the growing demand for mobile technology and services.
Rather than go through the usual “here’s where we are, here’s where we came from, and here’s where we’re heading” approach, I simply stated:
“We are moving toward a one-world network, where everyone can simply plugin and get connected.”
Now, I had to further stress that you may well physically “pug in” to the network, but more than likely you will make a wireless connection and enjoy the ease of use that a global high-bandwidth network could give you.
I didn’t care for such terminology as “IoT,” or anything else for that matter, and certainly not the iterations of the technology described as 2g, 3G, etc.
To me, they were just words and I focused on the almost limitless possibilities that were rapidly coming into our reach.
I was around for the first mobile phones, the first text messaging, and of course, video calling…but I hadn’t quite looked at the power of AI and how it would give us a huge opportunity to develop and impact society.
Artificial Intelligence: The Pros
It’s 2022 and we have within our grasp the technology to make the world a better place — that’s how I would love to see the outcome of what is essentially, a fantastic technology that could change lives for the better.
If you could apply “smart” to everything, then wouldn’t life just be a whole lot easier.
Can you imagine taking a car journey now, without your smartphone providing you directions…plus the precise details of all of the interesting places you can visit along the way?
Of course not.
But this is just one teeny-weeny aspect of a huge array of automated services and applications that we have come to rely upon and when you now start to connect technology with everyday life, then it would be foolish not to see and appreciate the benefits.
I am going to use the name “artificial intelligence” to underpin both the pros and cons of the technology and the pros are easy to understand — “artificial” or machine intelligence, means that we do not have to rely purely on our own intelligence.
Machines are able to learn about human behavior, and replicate it…plus improve on it!
In the world of business, it can mean faster and better decision-making…with better outcomes.
Of course, there will be a threat to human jobs, but there will also be a creation of new jobs as we transition through the automation phases — and I take the view that humans have always been far more creative through the ages when new technology emerges.
Human-to-human contact will still be a primary driving force as technology starts to really impact society and remember that people have to accept change, which is not going to be so easy in the short term, due to fear.
But if we look at how AI can benefit the world for the good, then it is easier to see the pros, rather than the cons.
I like to keep things simple and look at how technology can rapidly assess data to make better decisions — and those decisions will give leaders a better platform to affect transformation.
Whether it be a better tech-enabled household goods experience, a smart road that will keep cars to the speed limit and a safe distance from one another, or smart technology to give construction companies a more precise and faster way of building thousands of new homes, I’m all for it.
Let’s not forget the healthcare industry, which you don’t need me to tell you is massively under pressure, especially here in the UK.
Advances in medical technology have and continue to be a huge benefit to society and long may that continue.
I’m sure we are not far away from artificial organs that could save millions of lives and I am staying with the concept here and simply looking at the “good.”
In 2022 and beyond, we should be using technology wisely, to help solve the major problems of disease, poverty, homelessness, and the like — there is nothing more important than our health and wellbeing.
I could go on and on about the pros of AI and its associated technologies because it is easy to see how they can impact our lives for the better and I’m sure you can see the same.
But what really concerns me is the next part…
Artificial Intelligence: The Cons
If you take a look at the picture, you can get where I’m coming from.
For me, the real “cons” or to put it more precisely, “dangers” of AI are that we eradicate the human race.
I’m not being dramatic here, but facing the reality that many people refuse to face, simply because they are so entrenched in “humanism.”
And why not?
We are, after all, humans, so is it so wrong that we refuse to accept that maybe one day we won’t exist?
Now, let’s look at the term “transhumanism.”
Read the article above and read between the lines.
Twenty years ago, I met an engineer who worked on a project to implant microchips into children.
The idea was simple and a “no brainer” if you took the project purely to help safeguard our kids and to have the security that they are connected to a network that could monitor their whereabouts constantly through radio frequency (RF) technology.
Parents could rest assured and sleep better at night, knowing that their children, just like their pets can always be tracked.
But let’s look at the flip side and begin with health — we don’t know the short, medium, or long-term effects of using microchips on children, and has anyone really studied it with pets?
I know that we are clogging up the air with various radio waves and again, what is the effect on our health in the long term?
To enable the connectivity we need for all of the devices and applications, we need to make sure we have a ton of radio access.
To deliver the technology that will really change the impact on society, we need to have connectivity and the ability to collect, analyze and utilize masses of data.
Supercomputers are the fastest computers in the world and they are going to provide the backbone for data analysis and the development of new service applications…and they are developing fast.
AI applications require fast processing to handle the workload and demands that come with the technology and while we are talking about computing, we have to take a look at quantum computing.
Now we are fusing two technologies — quantum physics/mechanics and computing, which will bring a whole new dimension to the speed of processing, among many other things.
With a powerful infrastructure comprising of high bandwidth radio and fixed-line access, plus the ability to provide lightning-fast data processing, it is easy to see how technology could seriously improve our lives…or not!
The Real Issue
I mentioned my concern as to who is going to control the development and further implementation of AI and associated technologies.
Let’s get back to the term “artificial intelligence” for a moment and take a simplistic view of the “artificial” part.
AI learns from human intelligence…in the beginning anyway and if you have humans in control, you have the ability to authorize or limit the use.
If you sit down and top what you are doing right now and take the time to think about what you are going to do for the rest of the day, you can make or change decisions in a heartbeat.
If you change your thoughts to solving some problems that you have, you can play out various “what-if” scenarios that will give you a framework to solve those problems.
And when it comes down to decision-making, then you have the ability to use your emotional intelligence to add that part that people think machines are not so good at — emotion.
Human decision-making uses emotion, at least for many of us and we are able to add an emotional component to every decision we make, even when we know we are making the wrong ones.
If you are working in a grocery store and you see a person stealing something, you know inherently that it is wrong to steal, but you may allow your emotional thinking to take pity on the person, rightly or wrongly, and let the issue go.
Let’s say that we have an automated security guard, who witnessed and recorded the entire process of the same issue, and when it was presented to the store manager, they were unable to go against company policy because of that policy.
The store manager was unable to reverse the decision because a crime had been committed and the whole event was recorded and uploaded to the company’s servers at the head office in real-time.
The store manager’s role was purely to supervise the store and uphold the company process, as is the whole of the leadership team, who are virtually powerless to overturn decisions that have clear, binary outcomes.
Human emotion, in this example, has been taken out of the process, and even if it were to be added back in…by a machine…how would the machine make an emotional decision that it had learned to make in the first instance, from human behavior?
What I am saying is that machines are very unlikely to get into the depths of real human emotion any time soon and therefore, any emotional learning would be likely to be superficial.
When Machines Go Rogue
let’s go back to transhumanism for a moment and look at the gradual introduction of AI into the human race by connecting us to the Internet and allowing us to enjoy longer lives through the use of AI technology in the body.
Now we are a fusion of man and machine and it’s the machine part that concerns me.
With humans in control, we have the luxury of human intervention to stop a process — but what happens when we have a machine that goes rogue and makes decisions alone.
Or, more alarmingly, when a machine makes decisions with another machine and there is no time for human intervention if there is any human involvement at that stage?
Machine-to-machine decision-making offers a huge potential risk and especially when one component goes rogue and for whatever reason — you can use your own imagination to figure out the list of disastrous possibilities!
The real threat of AI lies here in my opinion — the move toward transhumanism, the development of AI, and quantum computing to me is a recipe for disaster if we are to look back on our history.
We have experienced more than our fair share of madmen and dictators…in the human form.
My fear is that we will get to experience the same from a machine perspective and far too soon!
Last modified: May 4, 2022