Artificial intelligence is one of the most fascinating and terrifying topics of discussion in the world we live in. The reality of AI becoming an influence on our lives is inescapable; it’s already here. The consequences of how we use the technology is a tremendously daunting concept.
Artificial intelligence is growing into every field of work, and many people are losing jobs because of it. Automation has played a huge role in the manufacturing industry in the United States. And AI’s influence is only growing. Self driving cars are now coming onto the market and are close to challenging for the jobs of all the taxis, Uber drivers, and more importantly, semi-truck drivers and large haul trucks. Many of these positions could evaporate within the coming years, putting another section of largely under skilled and uneducated Americans back into the job market.
Many people have the illusion that only low level, non skilled type work will be threatened by the use of AI. However, almost any job could be at risk, including creative work. Bots and AI have be deployed to write first drafts of articles for writers, and thousands of news stories have been first created by AI. Andrew Yang, a 2020 presidential candidate, said, “Automation is no longer just a problem for those working in manufacturing. Physical labor was replaced by robots; mental labor is going to be replaced by AI and software.”
The fear of AI invading the workplace is real. Andrew Yang, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has built part of his platform around the problems of AI in the workplace and solutions to displaced workers. He sees the problem of manufacturing jobs lost in places like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, but also sees the problem getting larger in the future. “Most Americans agree that technology is going to eliminate many more jobs than it will create.” Part of his campaign promises is to create a universal basic income, which he calls the freedom dividend, to better distribute the vast wealth that will be created by the technology we produce.
However, the biggest concern comes not from companies who use the technology to gain an upper hand, rather other organizations and groups who could use the technology in ill faith. Most importantly, the use of AI in warfare is almost inevitable, and that is perhaps the scariest fact of them all.
The scramble to use AI within the armed forces is already happening, and the effect is a pseudo arms race between all the countries to have the newest and best technology. “The defense department plans to allocate $4 billion toward artificial intelligence and machine learning R&D activities in fiscal 2020” according to Bloomberg Government.
This provides great concern and uncertainty as to how countries with poor faith intentions may use these technologies. Fears of how a country with nuclear capabilities, like Russia, could advance their weaponry to be more advanced and “smarter” than the defense systems protecting against them.
Technological advancement may also multiply problems currently being dealt with to catastrophic rates. Use of unmanned vehicles has exploded with the development of AI. he fear of small, unmanned, undetectable vehicles being deployed is a real fear because they may be virtually undetectable.
A stir was caused when a Boston mechanics group posted a video of a robot jumping up onto surfaces, causing a conversation about the speed of advancement of robotics and AI. Billionaire Elon Musk threw gas on the fire by retweeting the post, adding, “This is nothing. In a few years, that bot will move so fast you’ll need a strobe light to see it. Sweet dreams…” The tweet was met with criticism, but shows the real fear of the engineering community about he speed of learning by AI and he consequences of that.
My real fear comes from the deployment of bots similar to these into modern warfare, and the countries and terrorist groups willing to use the technology for violence. Soon enough, we will see artificial intelligence enter the battlefield alongside human beings. And the consequences of that are hard to determine. I also fear the consequences of the escalation of violence when human beings are inevitably replaced in warfare. While we may be generally safer because humans will no longer be needed in combat, one of my greatest fears is that violence will become much more normalized because of the removed risk. When war just consists of robots fighting robots, will there be enough of a deterrent to stop wars from breaking out all the time? Furthermore, when terrorist groups start to acquire this type of technology, what will stop them from using it on innocent civilians?
The real threats of AI are here, and are being discussed and dealt with in real time. Some people choose to ignore the issue. We shouldn’t be so naive.