Humanity is on a constant journey to advance technology. With advanced technology, people can redefine society, progressing into a Type I civilization, which is a planet that can use and store all its available energy. While Earth is a long way from becoming this advanced, people have made technological breakthroughs that still seem inconceivable to some. The research and development of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the forefront of new technological discoveries. Machine learning, a branch of these studies, focuses on the way in which artificial beings can learn from data and make independent decisions based on gained knowledge. The concept that artificial intelligence could become so advanced and developed to become fully independent and sentient are beyond frightening to some and introduces a myriad of ethical concerns.
Current Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
First, an important difference to note between sentient beings and artificial ones is that living beings have virtually an infinite capacity to store data when compared to artificial intelligence. There are intense limitations on the amount of data an AI can intake, so many of the current research projects based on machine learning serve to complete very specific tasks or achieve a particular goal in discovery (Anderson). Current AIs are also solely based on the behavior of the user. For example, most smartphones feature a developer-specific AI assistant (e.g., Apple Siri, Samsung Bixby, and Google Assistant). These AIs are programmed to learn the behavior of the user to tailor a personalized experience. From recommending apps to open based on a time of day or location to suggesting replies to text messages, smartphone AIs are powerful displays of machine learning, and they are commercial products that fit in a pocket.
Larger projects of AI research have recently been centered in the medical field (Buch). Machine learning and artificial intelligence have been used to expedite tasks such as analyzing a neural network because they learn to complete the same job as a clinician but in a much faster time and with a much greater capacity. However, AIs are mainly currently being studied to perform well-defined tasks that effectively demonstrate the ability of AI. Additionally, AI can only effectively consume a certain amount of data before becoming futile in its purpose. By continuing to use AI in medical studies, researchers will be able to measure with more accuracy the effectiveness of AI. In the future, researchers hope to eliminate the restrictions of AI and make it more suited to the needs of each individual patient.
The future of AI is difficult to arrive at because of the hesitancy of humanity. Fears of AI come from the lack of understanding and research we have in the potential for AI beings. The biggest unknown regarding the future of AI is the capability to become sentient. Because of this, there are impossible questions to answer concerning the ethics and rights of AIs to assure their positive influence on humanity. A more relevant concern is the use of AIs as weapons. Using robots equipped with AI would be an obscenely great advantage over the use of humans in a war, so weaponizing AI could be extremely dangerous and is dependent on the dignity of humans. Another unethical use of AI is to tamper with politics using a tactic called micro-targeting which uses the data from an individual’s interactions online to create media presented to that individual to influence their thoughts.
While we should not be afraid of an AI apocalypse, especially in the foreseeable future, we should be concerned with how AIs will be integrated into human society. Humans are the creators of AI beings and are the ones who have the potential to create something dangerous. It is the responsibility of humanity to be prepared to work as one to decide as the journey towards technological advancement continues.