Despite threats to human race, AI aids society’s advancement


The robot apocalypse is soon upon us. Forget meteors raining down from the heavens, or the sun eventually exploding in our faces billions of years into the future; worry about Siri and Alexa and Google Assistant going rogue and taking over all we know and hold dear.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is making headway against our species’ superiority, and it is already beating us at many of our own games. The metaphorical dams protecting human civilization as we know it have begun to break, and it won’t be long before we are wiped off the face of the Earth. The robots have already defeated us in chess, mastering the game in four hours by playing against itself over and over again. And if this keeps up, someday they’ll be able to establish dominion over the human race and take over. In fact, many top scientists and entrepreneurs like Tesla founder Elon Musk warn against developing AI for obvious reasons, although much less exaggerated than those stated above.

In spite of these threats, we shouldn’t overlook the various benefits AI can have on our lives. Realistically speaking, robots and AI will take most people’s jobs at some point, due to their high efficiency and automation, and society will inevitably transition to universal basic income. There are negative short-term effects, but with AI, our lives could be more enriched, filled with deeper thought, and a lot less monotonous than the routines we already have.

Fortunately, most people don’t have to worry about losing their job yet, because currently, artificial intelligence is still largely reliant on human knowledge. Training AIs is much like training a child to walk, talk, and recognize objects. The primary difference is that machines can run all day, all night, and can fail again and again until they succeed. But they can only improve if they are given feedback on whether they were successful or not, or else they will devolve into a chaotic mess, just like if children aren’t taught the difference between right and wrong.

This is how Google’s AI, AlphaGo Zero was able to become the best at the extremely complex ancient Chinese game Go, beating the 18-time world champion Lee Sedol four times in a five-game series. That was only after millions and millions of games against itself, improving its decision-making by noticing trends and patterns, and making use of them.

Those kinds of trends and patterns are actually just what some other industries seek to capitalize on. Doctors could be assisted by AI to provide a better diagnosis of a patient by analyzing complex medical data, help improve hospital sanitation, decreasing infection, and transport and assist disabled patients, reducing the number of strenuous tasks doctors and nurses have to do.

Even journalists have begun to implement AI technology into their field. Currently, The Washington Post is using an AI called Heliograf to gather data and publish a short article or tweet. It debuted during the 2016 Rio Olympics, where it tweeted medal scores and results from various events, which, according to The Post, saved countless hours of compiling and publishing results, pulling information directly from the International Olympic Committee. But, as readers, results and standings don’t necessarily provide a good story or narrative that we want to hear in such a large event. Journalists often need to go find those stories, not just the ones mainly focused on statistics, but about humans. Heliograf reduces the strain on the already thinly-stretched journalists covering time consuming topics, allowing them to focus on the more human stories while AI covers most of the legwork. This way, we can feel more connected to the world when we read the news, not just numbers on paper, but also how people are affected by those numbers.

AI is not limited to journalism. The justice system in many states, such as Arizona, Kentucky, Alaska, New Jersey, and Ohio, have found AI particularly useful, aiding judges in determining bail amounts and jail times. By considering different factors to find out the likelihood of a person to commit another crime or escape judges can make decisions accordingly. They are assisted by calculations that incorporate different factors, like their criminal record, background, living conditions, and work. Often, innocent people are thrown in jail for not being able to pay bail, causing them to miss days of work or school just because they couldn’t afford it.

But using AI, judges can make more impartial decisions, so that people who pose a less of safety threat as law-abiding citizens would be given a cheaper bail, and those who could commit another crime would be given justice. The bail system has long been criticized for letting the rich walk, while the poor are thrown in jail. While we cannot be sure that it can accurately differentiate between the good and bad yet, it will provide judges with some answers they can use to supplement their own knowledge of the case. As of now, and likely many years into the future, we must rely on the judge to bestow justice.

There are many problems and concerns about AI, like cherry-picked, manipulated, or false data, as well as misuse and uncontrollability. In 2016, Microsoft’s AI, Tay, was taught by online trolls to spew expletives and Nazi propaganda. After the incident Microsoft promptly removed her. But if companies can use train them to clearly separate between right and wrong, they can prove to be very useful in the workplace. Not only do they increase the amount of work people can do, but they also should boost the quality by letting them spend more time pursuing meaningful stories, making better decisions, and curing the sick. With AI covering the most basic tasks, workers can delve into the deeper issues at hand, without having to worry about all the busy bureaucracies, data bashing, and housekeeping they have to do otherwise.  Neither will they have to worry about the robot apocalypse, because at the moment, they’re on our side to make our lives better.