A variation of this post first appeared November 19, 2017 in the Sunday Business Magazine of El Nuevo Dia.
The very idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can conjure up images of The Terminator –something frightening and straight out of science fiction or the minds of Hollywood moguls. While in reality, AI isn’t all about machines that can one day turn on their creators, there are technology and scientific leaders who are concerned with keeping the possibilities of AI under control.
A high-level conference was reportedly held in Puerto Rico, attended by industry luminaries including Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. During the conference, delegates signed an open letter promising to “conduct AI for good.”
There also was a gathering of U.S. governors a few months ago, where Elon Musk warned about the potential dangers of AI and pushed for a regulatory body to guide its development.
So what exactly is AI?
It’s an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities AI-based software is designed for, include speech recognition, learning, planning and problem solving. And these activities are already underway today.
Yet, even without a malicious intent there are potential disasters that could be caused by AI: robots taking jobs away from humans; accidents caused by self-driving cars; or robots making bad decisions in military situations. Because of these and many other potential scenarios, it’s smart to tread cautiously down the AI path and have regulatory overseers in place to ensure it is evolving safely and being used wisely.
Balancing the Risk with the Benefits
As with any technology innovation, or breakthrough of any kind for that matter, AI has the capacity to improve the world or cause it harm, and innovation should not be stifled because of the latter – rather, it just needs to be strategically controlled.
The key purpose for AI in the future will be to augment humans. While we have the great capacity for judgement, wisdom, compassion, among other traits, we do not have the computing capacity to retain and process the huge volume of information that computers can. Imagine the possibilities of using the huge amounts of data that AI can process. It can help us one day find cures for diseases; ensure the safety of travelers in airports; or provide companionship to elderly patients.
AI in Action Today
While it’s relatively new, AI and its many variations are in widespread use today. When you visit an online retail site and receive offers for related products, that’s AI in action. Or when you call your cable company with questions about your bill and get your information from a virtual assistant; or receive an offer for a new insurance program from your insurance company, that’s also AI in action.
There’s so much innovation taking place and so many forms of AI — from machine learning tools, to chatbots and deep learning algorithms — that it’s no wonder it’s transforming how we work and how we live.