It’s in our nature to fear what we don’t know. There have been endless novels, television series, and films written about the possibilities of our future. The attempt to conjure up a theory or answer proves one thing to our fascinating minds, uncertainty equals danger.
For many individuals, an alarm sounds when they hear about the latest breakthroughs in science such as machine learning (ML), robotics, and automation. 78% of respondents in a study expressed concern that these technologies could be used with malicious intent.
Is it possible to be preparing for the future of artificial intelligence (AI) when fear clouds our judgment? Not easily. So, let’s explore the potential of AI technology, where it will likely take us, and what we can do to embrace the new age of innovation.
The present impacts of AI
We are in the dawn of AI, no doubt about it. From Alan Turing’s development of the Turing test in 1950 to the eventual passing of it in 2022, we’ve come a long way. To realistically contemplate the preparations needed for the future, we must first understand the present. So, let’s dive into some of the real-world applications that we can see today.
The budding opportunities that AI brings
Experts in 2023 predicted that the rate of AI development is doubling every few years. These emerging technologies will likely surpass our expectations in a blink of an eye. Does that have to be a worrying thought? Of course not! It actually paints our future in a very bright and promising light.
There are so many problems that could be solved in every aspect of our lives. Let’s ponder on some of those possibilities and how AI could contribute to the public good in the near future.
- If you’re looking for a new career, now is a great time to find it. The technological revolution has been bringing new jobs and with them new opportunities. You could become an AI technologist, a researcher who studies methodologies, a salesperson, or a data analyst. Don’t worry, AI won’t replace all human jobs!
- Information is becoming much more accessible, which in turn means that education will be more widely available to all. Microsoft is working on projects such as automatic sign language translation, speech recognition, and summaries to make information more digestible.
- Methods like machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) are already being applied in the healthcare industry. The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) lists benefits such as a more user-centric experience, improved efficiency in operations, and connecting big data. Also, by automating mundane tasks, AI could eventually aid the shortages of healthcare staff in the US and NHS workers in the UK.
- Perhaps the biggest impact is self-driving, autonomous vehicles. Public transportation would become more regular and reliable and it means freedom for those with disabilities. Waymo is mapping out New York after successful trials in other states, which shows the public launch of these autonomous cars is close.
The potential dangers of AI
We are still in the early stages of AI technologies, and it is undoubtedly growing more intelligent every year. With neural networks replicating the human brain and generative AI creating content, the concerns that would’ve once been nothing more than a science fiction plot are becoming more real. Since we can only guess what the technology will be capable of in 10 years, it’s only natural for people to wonder and fear the worst.
As wisely spoken by Professor Ed Felten, “The way to improve anything is to have a discussion about its flaws”. So, let’s do just that.
- The worry about AI’s effect on our civil rights is abundant. France has worrying plans for AI surveillance of the 2024 Olympic Games, which could become a huge safeguarding and privacy issue. Deepfakes are all over social media too, which creates an opportunity for scams, copyright infringement, and identity theft.
- AI tools are not perfect, even the ones released by huge companies. They’ve been known to deliver politically incorrect responses. But there are also other concerns about a lack of governing, including violation of personal data and security.
- Some tools can detect AI plagiarism, but the technology is growing smarter. If AI outsmarts these applications, then people’s work can get replicated or stolen and students can continue to use apps like ChatGTP for homework.
- There have been concerns raised about AI biases in data sets. Take Amazon, for example. In 2018, the giant introduced a recruiting tool with a distaste for women. These pesky computer models trained themselves to prefer male applicants by observing the previous resumes that were submitted mostly by men. From this, they learned that the tech industry is dominated by them and continued the pattern.
How can we prepare for the future of AI?
The only way to prepare for the future of AI is to harness the exciting opportunities while minimizing the risks that come with them. Sure, we know this is easier said than done when you have to become familiar with a technology that just won’t stand still.
However, business owners, policymakers, and teachers can lead conversations and encourage decision-making about which precautions need thinking about. Here are a few examples of how we can make the transition to a fully AI-driven society much smoother.
1. Preparing the workforce
Many employees fear that they will lose their jobs to artificially intelligent coworkers. A receptionist, for example, could be replaced by an automatic check-in/check-out service. And we’ve already seen the introduction of self-service kiosks in chains like McDonald’s, and virtual assistants instead of human customer service.
This doesn’t mean that the world is doomed. Yes, it has been reported that AI will replace 85 million jobs by 2025. But tabloids often neglect the fact that the same report states that AI will create 97 million jobs by the same year. Phew, right?
While this is great news, we aren’t out of the woods yet. There will always be human-level jobs, especially if AI makes good on its promises, but this doesn’t mean we will be ready for them. Education, for students and employees, needs to be reimagined for the future.
Below are some of the ways we should prepare the current and future workforces for collaboration with AI systems.
- Students need to be equipped with critical-thinking skills, engaged in ethical debates, and schools must invest in AI tools. This will get them ready for the rapidly-evolving technology that they will most likely come into contact with in their careers.
- Business owners will need to rethink the structure and formats of their workforce to optimize human intelligence as much as the artificial kind.
- Some private-sector companies have launched training initiatives. For example, Royal Dutch Shell, a British oil and gas company, pays for customized online coursework to train employees in AI. Business owners of smaller companies and even startups will also need to implement upskilling. However, not every business will be able to afford this, so there will need to be a budget alternative.
2. Updating regulations, laws, and policies
As exciting as AI is, there is no denying that the risks could become our reality. No one wants to crash self-driving cars on the road or have their personal data passed around like a pack of chewing gum. But these are possibilities if AI remains heavily unregulated.
Currently, AI is only ruled by restrictions built for other purposes and there is no specific law in place to monitor its use. Some argue that it should stay this way because putting regulations on a growing concept will leave innovation on the back burner. Others fear the implications of uncontrolled technology and claim changes in the law are the way forward.
Developments are happening as we speak. The European Union (EU) is leading the way with their pending act, likely to be finalized this year. In Washington, DC, the White House is not far behind. Within the executive office of the president, a blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights has been constructed.
The president’s council of advisors on science and technology includes the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science and Technology Council. Together, they support and draft policies on topics that include data privacy, algorithmic discrimination protection, and safe systems.
Here are some examples of what could be put in place a few years from now. Particularly if the two above plans keep moving forward, this list represents a small part of what will be enforced both nationally and internationally.
- AI will need to be classified by risk. Anything deemed high-risk will be strictly monitored, tested, and controlled to keep the public safe and free. Some examples might include the implementation of technology in sectors like transport, border control management, surgery and security.
- If a person is exposed to a system, an emotion recognition for example, they will need to be aware of it. Any high-risk case or situation will require full transparency from the developer or company. Also, activity and development will be logged so there can be traceability and accountability.
- When any new technology or algorithm is developed, the team behind it will need to be able to explain it, how it works, and what it does. In addition, the purpose of these and any AI research should never be hidden from the public.
Many believe that these considerations will continue the development of AI, but with more peace of mind. You wouldn’t ride a rollercoaster that hasn’t been researched or tested, would you? Regulations don’t stop them from being thrilling, but they do make sure that everyone is safe. Elon Musk said it best in 2017, and his tweet is still very much relevant.
3. Laying the AI foundations in business
Such intelligent software sounds like it’s reserved for the biggest and richest companies. But it isn’t, and so many businesses are finding ways to embrace it. 30% of small businesses already use AI, and 33% more have plans to within the next 12-18 months.
Some aspects of AI’s future are beyond our control. But from a personal perspective, there are a lot of things you can do to make the adoption of AI easier now and in the future. Below are the best practices to consider so your business will be ready for what’s to come.
- It’s crucial to stay up to date on the latest trends. Don’t panic if you don’t have the power or resources to implement them as they develop. Staying in the conversation is just as important, and it prevents AI from feeling too overwhelming.
- Some of your employees might be among the group that fear the loss of their jobs. Have an open conversation with them to manage their wild expectations but also eliminate any worries they might have.
- Come up with a realistic plan. There is no point in implementing AI because of pressure from competitors or fear of being left behind. Craft a plan that explains why you need it and what you want to achieve to fully evolve your business and get your employees and shareholders on board.
- Help your team to interact with AI on a daily business. By helping them get used to technology in smaller chunks, they will be more likely to want to learn. For example, try adopting user-friendly software like Jira into your workflow or project process.
The use of AI is not the first time humans have been afraid of something new. It truly is a sensation passed down through our generations. “Computerphobia” was a fashionable phenomenon until the 1990s. After warming up to that, the new fear became cyberspace.
The inventions and innovations we now could not live without were once a frightening concept for many. This doesn’t mean they were unfounded, because both of the examples above did bring new threats and problems. But evolution couldn’t happen without them. As Nick Bostrom put it, “We are in the business of living, and the show must go on.”
As long as we take an education-first and pro-innovation approach to AI, we can watch it flourish, prepare ourselves for the future, and still experience a positive impact on humanity. Technology is here to stay, so you should probably get on board.
The most effective way to watch the future unfold is to keep up-to-date with the latest AI-powered apps. Luckily for you, they can all be found in one place, here at Top Apps.