Artificial Intelligence: For better or worse

With the rise and popularity of artificial intelligence there appears to be a lot of hype pushing for new technologies to make our lives better, but who is really benefiting? Industry 4.0 is pushing its way through the manufacturing industry to get everyone connected, but what will all the collective data be used for? Will it be able to improve efficiencies across the globe or will it just be used to decide what operations to consolidate, eliminate or automate for maximum global efficiency, eliminating the need for a human workforce? If implemented effectively, it should be able to predict potential problems with production and even correct the underlying issue. It should also be able to predict a machine failure or when maintenance is required, but will it assure the parts and resources are available for the required maintenance or repair? Will it ever reach the point where it can just reproduce and replace any mechanical parts that fail without any human intervention?

Artificial intelligence can be used for the common good or if it ends up in the wrong hands, it can easily be used to gain power and economic control by influencing and manipulating human behavior to benefit those parties who have the data. On the other hand, artificial intelligence can be used for the greater good of society, as in the case of Microsoft’s contribution of cloud-computing resources to a non-profit group collecting data from ALS patients to share with researchers around the world so that they can better understand the disease and find a pathway to better treatment and hopefully a cure someday for this devastating disease.

Another example of artificial intelligence being used for the greater good would be how IBM is using it to help achieve gender equality by assisting in training to remove natural biases. Although it is trying to modify human behavior, one could argue that it is for the common good of society in order to achieve the value of equal opportunity our nation strives for.

If artificial intelligence is being marketed or promoted to make your life easier or more convenient, you should always be skeptical. Take for instance, one-click payments, subscription fees with automatic renewals automatically managing every transaction we make until we disengage from our finances and no longer manage our spending habits. As in The Truman Show” starring Jim Carrey, maybe the end goal of the companies providing us these services is to wait for each of us to run out of money then have us wear a live stream camera so they can use us to promote their products that we use in exchange for their services delivered at no cost.

As humans we tend to learn from our mistakes. With the rise of artificial intelligence, will we become more carefree about our mistakes? After all, artificial intelligence should also be able to learn from its own mistakes, but will the mistakes be bigger and more dangerous? Will it become so powerful that humans can just stop learning altogether? Then who will fix the mistakes created by artificial intelligence and what will follow artificial intelligence? An artificial society with artificial emotions, artificial friends, family and relationships? Artificial health and well-being? Fabricated faith and artificial happiness? A world of artificial beings?

When artificial intelligence starts to make real decisions for humans with real consequences there is no longer a reason to refer to it as “artificial”. Maybe we should just call it digital intelligence and just like human intelligence, it can be judged on how intelligent or useful it really is. My only conclusion is that artificial intelligence is created by humans. Humans tend to make mistakes, have natural biases and sometimes private agendas so artificial intelligence is as real as the people who create the algorithms behind it. The reliability of artificial intelligence will only be as good as the people who create it and its usefulness to society will depend only on what its creators intend to do with the data.