Charles Babbage after inventing the first automated computer machine would have never thought of the transformation it would achieve with the time. Or, John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper after making the first mobile phone which weighed approximately 2kg would have never thought of such handy mobiles used in the 21st century. For the last one decade, there has been a revolution in the field of science. During this due course, rigid production patterns have been transformed into flexible ones, and uniform centralized large-scale production is changed into the production of modular constituents on more limited scales. Due to which, the ability of an enterprise to changes in the market has improved significantly. We have tried to reveal the mysteries of nature to the fullest extent. We have been successful in shortening the distance in the world and reached out even beyond. All this was possible because of science and technology.
Artificial Intelligence(AI) in very simple words is the simulation of human intelligence in the machine that is programmed to think and behave like humans. Surrounded as we are by the memories of our analog world, to many of us, these wonderings may seem decades from accomplishment. But AI, the engine of the fourth industrial revolution is very much with us. It is embedded in the recommendation we get on our online e-commerce website; in GPS map technology; in the predictive text that completes our sentence when we try to complete a web search or send an email. AI promises to be more transformative than the harnessing of electricity. The more AI we use, the more data we generate, the smarter it gets.
Years ahead big data, automation, and algorithms will continue to sweep into fresh corners of our lives until we no longer remember how things were before. As the invention of electricity allowed us to tame time, similarly AI can leap-frog us toward eradicating poverty, hunger, and disease – opening up new and hitherto unimaginable pathways for education, climate change mitigation, and scientific discovery. Already artificial intelligence has elevated business productivity, increased crop yields, improved access to credit, and made cancer detection more faster and accurate.
For starters, Artificial Intelligence requires massive computational capacity, which means more power-hungry data centers – and a big carbon footprint. Moreover, AI and robotics are developing intelligent machines that perform tasks typically carried out by low-income workers making a hole in their pockets. Self-service kiosks are replacing cashiers, fruit and vegetable robots are replacing field workers; but the day is not far when many desk jobs will also be edged out by AI, such as financial traders, accountants, clerks, and middle managers. Unless we have clear policies on reskilling workers, the promise of new opportunities will create serious new inequalities. The investment will be shifted to countries where AI-related work is already established, resulting in the widening of gaps among and within countries. The fact is, just as AI has the potential to improve millions of lives, it can also replicate and exasperate existing problems, and create new ones. For example, a study published in Harvard University depicts how an AI-enhanced recruitment engine, based on an existing workforce profile taught itself that male candidates were preferable to female.
One of the biggest threats AI offers is “data privacy”. The algorithm’s never-ending hunt for data has led to our digital footprints being harvested and sold without our informed consent or knowledge. We are constantly being characterized in service of customization, putting us into echo chambers of like-mindedness, restricting exposure to varied viewpoints, and eroding common ground. Nowadays, it is no exaggeration to say that with all the discrete bytes of information floating around us online, the algorithms know us better than we know ourselves. They can prompt our behavior without our noticing. Our level of addiction to our mobile phones, the inability to resist looking at our devices, and the case of Cambridge Analytica – in which big data and algorithms were used to alter the voting decisions – should serve as a potential warning of the individual and societal concerns coming from current AI business models.
The need for the balance
The question that needs to be answered is; How do we ensure that AI applications are as transparent, unbiased, equitable, civil and inclusive as possible? Because without the ethical guard, AI will widen economic and social schisms, amplifying any innate biases at an irreversible scale and rate and lead to discriminatory outcomes. It is neither fair nor is it enough to expect AI tech companies to solve these challenges through self regulations. First, they are not alone in developing and deploying AI; government also do so. But, only a “whole of society approach” to AI governance will enable us to develop broad-based ethical principles.
Agreeing on common guiding principles is an important step, but it is not the most challenging part. It is in the implementation of the principles that the rubber hits the road. It is where principles meet the reality that the ethical issues and problem arise in practice, and for which we must be prepared for deep, difficult, multi-stakeholder ethical reflection, analyses, and resolve. Only then will AI be able to provide humanity its complete promise.
“The technology alone is not enough. It is technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing. “For years, jobs repeatedly emphasized that to create a better world, the focus needs to be on both humans and technology, in other words both humanities and science!!”