Separating fact from fiction when it comes to artificial intelligence
The term artificial intelligence can inspire images of utopian worlds of abundant resources in which intelligent machines eliminate the need for unwanted work… Or it could invoke nightmare scenarios of sentient computers hellbent on destroying the human race.
Both extremes make for good science fiction and fantasy, but they are not terribly useful when thinking about the impact of AI and machine learning on today’s world. Here are three myths that should be relegated to fiction and replaced by more realistic outcomes.
Realistic Outcome: Highly decentralized AI making simple decisions will do more to improve people’s quality of life.
In Arthur C. Clarke’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, a centralized artificial intelligence machine called HAL 9000 begins making decisions on its own — with deadly consequences. In the story, HAL 9000 has control over a space vessel and uses that control to thwart the human astronauts on board. In reality, AI-powered machines are far less intelligent, more narrowly focused, and limited in their scope of control.
In fact, the trend today is to create simple AI machines that can be distributed instead of centralized. “What we’re seeing is a trend actually to put more storage and processing at the edge,” says David Eun, president of Samsung NEXT, in the End of the Beginning video on AI. “Why is this? Because there are increasing numbers of services that people will want that will require a lot more processing, a lot more efficiency at the edge closer to them.”
This push to the edge will come with intelligence, says Adi Pinhas, co-founder & CEO of Brodmann17, a company developing machine vision platforms at the forefront of this effort. “We are trying to make something small a little better, a robot to be more interactive, to save us more time, to be able to reduce the number of accidents, and then to create a better life, a safer life, for everyone,” he says. “By inserting computer vision, for example, inside a robotic vacuum cleaner, it enables the robot to be smarter. … So instead of being just a dumb machine, suddenly it can understand how to do its job better, to be more independent.”
Prediction: Expect to see limited artificial intelligence more widely distributed.
Realistic Outcome: Privacy controls will evolve to support more choice and finer-grained controls.
Of all the fears about the future of technology, concerns about privacy are perhaps the most well-founded. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates that more than 11 trillion records have been inappropriately disclosed in 8,983 breaches since 2005.
And in one move that raised privacy-related red flags, Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data to create a “psychological warfare tool” prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In another case, just staying at a major hotel chain was enough to include someone in the 500 million guests whose private information was stolen by state-sponsored hackers.
Advances in AI, however, will bring additional tools for protecting people’s privacy and allowing individuals to control what information they choose to share. Eun notes there will be an increasing demand for cybersecurity companies that offer state of the art security and transparency about how people’s data is used.
With more transparency, there will be a shift from advertising-funded services to more opt-in, compensation-based systems. “There could be different modes of subscription or different reward systems and incentive systems for people to let others have access to their data. …It’s going to be lots of disruption, lots of innovation, and different companies are going to emerge that are going to address these needs,” Eun says.
Prediction: Expect to see more, not less, control over privacy.
Realistic Outcome: AI will change jobs.
Not everyone agrees on the impact AI will have on jobs and the future of work. Kai-Fu Lee, a venture capitalist and former CEO of Google China, anticipates that 40 percent of the world’s jobs will be replaced by robots capable of automating tasks. “Both blue collar and white collar professions will be affected, but he believes those who drive for a living could be most affected,” according to Lee.
The overall impact of these changes are difficult to foresee because new industries arise in the wake of disruptions, says Thomas Malone, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of The MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.“Every single time in the past when technologies have taken away human jobs, more jobs have eventually been created than were eliminated,” says Thomas.
Moreover, the impact of AI will include democratization of the benefits of intelligence. Royi Benyossef, developer and community relations manager at Samsung Next, points out that AI “could be a multiplying force that could have one expert physician service 10,000 people instead of 100 people.”
Prediction: Expect to see automation eliminate jobs while creating as yet unforeseen industries.
AI is rapidly emerging as a major influence on social and economic structures. Periods of change like this are ripe for speculation, both fantastically positive and frighteningly negative. Reality is most likely somewhere in between but fortunately for all of us, humans will shape that reality, which could be as Thomas Malone describes, one in which “we can get past the concern of people competing with computers, and think much more of computers as our partners, our allies, that enable us to achieve our goals in better ways.”
For more information on artificial intelligence, and where it’s going next, watch the new video series by Samsung NEXT, The End of the Beginning.