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Artificial intelligence societal impacts and critical decisions


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We are much further than we think. Artificial Intellegence, while debated for years, is becoming part of a reality that must be addressed.

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Artificial intelligence societal impacts and critical decisions

  1. 1. Running head: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 1 Artificial Intelligence: Societal Impacts and Critical Decisions Tamara Mitchell Western Oregon University
  2. 2. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 2 Artificial Intelligence: Societal Impacts and Critical Decisions Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) a possibility? In July of 2017, Facebook announced that AI chatbots are capable of inventing their own language (Maney, 2017). For the first time, many who believe artificial intelligence to be a futuristic concept awoke to the idea that AI is much more advanced than publicly shared. In the same month, Elon Musk cautioned that Artificial Intelligence and autonomous weaponry warrant regulation. Musk explains, “Once there is awareness…people will be extremely afraid, as they should be” (S.W., 2017). Reactions to the recent announcements depend on personal perspective of AI. Some may, as Musk purports, fear the technology. There is one more pressing issue - Since organizations, for proprietary reasons, do not tend to share AI advancements, it is difficult to know how far advanced this type of technology has become. Certainly, computer power is increasing daily. While it is difficult to know how far advanced this technology has become, societal impacts and responsibilities related to AI cannot be ignored. In order to provide insight into implications of artificial intelligence, seven critical areas relating to AI’s impacts and social responsibility will be examined in this paper. Past perspectives have shown a mixed-view of the impact of AI on humanity. Still, we are further than we know – Artificial intelligence is not only discussed as a possibility by thought-leaders, but recent developments support this view. Theorists estimate that AI will dramatically change how work will be performed in the future. In addition, AI will have a role in public discourse through social media projects. Integration of AI and ambient computing at home will impact individual care and routines. As artificial intelligence becomes steeped in society, perceived threats should be acknowledged. Ultimately, moving forward with AI will require regulation.
  3. 3. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 3 Past and Current Perspectives In the past, some theorists viewed AI as impossible or threatening to society. Elon Musk is not the only thought-leader who warns against AI. Past thought-leaders have participated in the discussion on AI. For example, Ray Kurzweil (2005) would agree that humanity needs to control artificial intelligence. He fears that machine learning will expand until it will be impossible for humanity to control (2005). Other, past thought-leaders doubted the reality of AI. Joseph Weizenbaum (1968) doubts that AI will become capable of independent thought. In fact, Weizenbaum presupposes that AI, although capable of great processing power, will be limited to the information provided by human counterparts. Hubert Dreyfus supports Weizenbaum’s limited view of AI. To Dreyfus, AI is an interesting, but unachievable, idea. Dreyfus uses past failures with AI programming to indicate that the approach to developing AI is flawed and future progress is not possible (2004). Whether one agrees with a cautionary view of AI or not, other perspectives should be examined. There are exceptions to the pessimistic view of AI – Some thought-leaders agree that AI may be helpful to humanity. Although we are collecting data, human capabilities are falling short of processing such large amounts of data. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier regard data as “…the raw material of business, a vital economic input, used to create new economic value” (2013, p. 5). As computing power expands, artificial intelligence can provide clear recommendations to complex and vast pieces of data. IBM’s Watson is being marketed as an Artificial Intelligence to help business utilize large amounts of data and make critical decisions. Rushkoff indicates that new innovations, like AI, drive commerce: ‘On an innovation landscape now characterized by flow, capital competes for vehicles in which to invest” (Rushkoff, 2013, p.
  4. 4. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 4 45). Although Rushkoff’s view is held in as a general view on technology, the view can be applied to AI - An investment in AI could result in positive economic impact to society. We Are Further Than We Know Current progress supports the claims by critics of AI who suggest that this type of technology is possible. Stephen Hawking compares AI to a computer virus capable of improving and replicating itself until it outperforms humans (Conley, 2017). Although Hawking views replication negatively, Ray Kurtzweil estimates that AI replication would allow technology to partner with the human body (2005). For Kurzweil (2005), intelligent computing could allow hybrid biological and non-biological processes work together. As a project manager for IBM’s Watson, Neil Sahota would applaud Kurzweil’s vision. Sahota explains, “We can do more with Artificial Intelligence than we can disclose to the public” (2017). IBM’s Watson has proven to be a prime example of intelligent computing. Watson is IBM’s AI platform for business that is able to process large amounts of data and make intelligent recommendations. For IBM, Watson’s victory on Jeopardy was more than an example of AI surpassing human intelligence, it was a public illustration of the complex thinking of which machines are capable (Sahota, 2017). John Markoff references Google’s self-driving car to illustrate the vast improvements made into the field of AI in recent years (2016). As AI capabilities increase, so does potential societal impacts. AI and The Future of Work Most theorists seem to agree that AI will dramatically change the way society performs work. Richard and Daniel Susskind suggest that much of the work performed by humans will be assumed by AI counterparts. Audrey Watters agrees with this perspective, “We are, some say, on the cusp of a great revolution in artificial intelligence and as such a great revolution in human
  5. 5. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 5 labor” (2014, p. 6). Watters is not the only one who recognizes recent and future developments in AI. Richard and Daniel Susskind (2017) use IBM’s Watson as an estimation of progress with AI: It is interesting to note, harking back again to the exponential growth of information technology, that the hardware on which Watson ran in 2011 was said to be about the size of the average bedroom. Today, we are told, it runs on a machine that is the size of three pizza boxes, and by the early 2020s Watson will sit comfortably in a smartphone. In the future, critical roles could be replaced by intelligent computing. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, and other roles may be filled by AI, “…new kinds of machines…can replace part, if not all, of certain kinds of professional work” (Susskind, 2017, p. 26). John Markoff, however, counters that there are limits to the type of robot automation and refutes the idea that machines would assume the sole responsibility for work that requires intelligent thought (2016). Markoff does estimate that technology will allow a reduction of manual labor and will free up resources and time for other tasks (2016). Do not mistake that Markoff’s skepticism of AI capabilities as an indication that humanity will not be displaced in workforce roles. Markoff cautions, “The same technologies that extend the intellectual power of humans can displace them as well” (Markoff, 2016, p. 37). Ultimately, progress in artificial intelligence research continues to lead to a greater involvement and impact on humanity. AI And The Public Conversation The integration of AI and social media indicates a current involvement in a public conversation. IBM’s Cognitive Dress project is one example of AI and social media working together to communicate to targeted groups of individuals. Through an algorithm, Watson
  6. 6. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 6 interpreted social media Tweets and interpreted the tone of the messages (Sahota, 2017). These messages were relayed to a dress wired with lights that changed colors based on the tone of the social media texts. Watson was able to accurately interpret the emotional undertones of messages and make the coordinating color light up in the cognitive dress (Sahota, 2017). This project is valuable to the discussion on AI because it illustrates that Watson was powerful enough to interact with and interpret social messages. Furthermore, this AI accurately responded to the messages. With evidence that AI can have an impact on social conversations, it is even more important to examine the types of conversations on which AI can have an impact. From medical monitoring to online social media chatbots, AI is being used to communicate with consumers through the use of natural language on the individual level. Facebook’s investigation into chatbots may have spurred public concern early in 2017, but it is not the first company to have used AI to communicate with potential consumers (Maney, 2017). Previously, scientists began developing AI that could use natural language to communicate. A.L.I.C.E. was developed over twenty years ago to meet this goal. Many individuals who engaged in conversations with A.L.I.C.E. did not realize they were talking to a machine. Currently, chatbots are being used by doctors to diagnose conditions and by patients to warn of potential conditions (Lockman, et al, 2009). One example is a project which used chatbots to help diabetic patients to analyze symptoms and take recommended actions. Because diabetes cannot be cured, management of this health condition on a regular basis using chatbots provides an added resource for patients. Ultimately, Lori Andrews warns against a reduction in privacy when private conversations become public a matter of public record (Andrews, 2012). Whether AI is engaging in medical or social media conversations, the records of the conversations will be saved. Involvement of AI in storing, analyzing, and using past conversations to improve future
  7. 7. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 7 recommendations may further reduce privacy. There is another area in which AI’s ability to communicate may be even more sobering. Technology exists that can communicate directly with the human body; and, AI would be able to mediate the communication. Karen Platoni uses the term biohacking to explain technology’s ability to manipulate the human experience, “If using technology to manipulate what happens inside your head seems like a futuristic proposition, just consider one of mankind’s earliest perception-shaping devices: the timepiece” (Platoni, 2015, p. 36). Kevin Warwick, Director of Project Cyborg, would agree. As one of the first to implant a chip in his arm that would allow him to alter the human experience, he was able to prove that manipulating human biology using technology is possible (Warwick, 2004). Not only are individuals able to communicate directly with bodily processes, AI is being introduced to mediate the communication. George Dvorsky predicts that “Steady advances in computing processing power are leading many experts to conclude that human-equivalent artificial intelligence may be attainable by the year 2040, if not sooner” (2008). While the intention of the technology is to give individuals the ability to enhance their experience, introducing AI could reduce individual control over biological communication. Where Dvorsky’s argument falls short is that AI is already being used to mediate messages between medical professionals and the human body, and results are largely positive. From early detection of cancer to computer-aided diagnosis of medical conditions, artificial intelligence is mediating communication between physicians and the human body. Ambient computing is another area in which AI will extend its reach. Integration of AI and Ambient Computing At Home
  8. 8. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 8 Ambient computing expands the reach of AI in public spaces and in the home. Leveraging the power of the internet, computers use sensors and devices to produce immediate responses to human requests. Ambient intelligence devices are used to mediate communication between individuals and the Internet of Things. Siri, Alexa, Moto, Echo and other tools use natural language understanding and automated speech recognition to resolve requests and locate information from the internet. The opportunities for ambient intelligence to positively impact the human experience are plentiful. Kleinberger et al., “Ambient Intelligence in Assisted Living: Enable Elderly People to Handle Future Interfaces,” contend that AMI is able to assist elderly to communicate in emergency situation thereby improving response time and providing additional resources for emergency responders (2007). Additionally, mobile learning is enhanced through AMI. From vocational training to higher education and K-12 teaching for adults and children, access to education is increased when coupled with ambient intelligence tools (Lokman, et al, 2014). Audrey Watters (2014) predicts an “efficiency and automation in education: intelligent tutoring systems, artificially intelligent textbooks, robo-graders, and robo-readers.” These devices are designed to be woven into the infrastructure of the human experience. The reach and data access of ambient intelligence (AMI) leads to a discussion of trust and reliability. Don Norman (2013) suggests that computing devices are more reliable when designed with the human experience in mind. With complex devices and commercial and industrial processes, the resulting difficulties can lead to accidents, injuries, and even deaths. It is time to reverse the situation: to cast the blame upon the machines and their design. It is the machine and its design that are at fault. It is the duty of machines and those who design them to understand people.
  9. 9. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 9 In addition to reliability, trust is an issue. Questions of trust arise when AMI accesses and stores household, business, and individual data. The connection between AI and ambient computing also introduces issues of privacy. These issues are important to consider as we move forward with AI. Moving Forward With AI Introducing computer technology that is powerful enough to supplement or take over human thinking needs to be mediated. Advancements in AI have potential impacts that extend beyond the borders of the United States. In 2017, the United Nations formed an ad hoc committee to gain deeper understanding into actions that should be taken to respond to advancements in AI (Sahota, 2017). As AI capabilities increase, society is at risk of losing a guiding role in organizations, public conversation, and individual involvement in the workforce. If AI is cheaper to organizations than traditional labor, the potential for humanity’s displacement in the labor market should be acknowledged and regulated (Markoff, 2016). The collection and use of data should be publicly declared and individual rights to privacy should be protected globally. Discussions on mediating AI access to drones and remote sensing capabilities should be held. The discussion becomes more complex when one acknowledges that Freedom of Information Act provides public access to surveillance records in the U.S., but not in other nations (Lynch, Foot, 2015). What does this mean for AI and individuals in the U.S. who will have their public records accessible throughout the world? Other potential threats may arise with the use of artificial Intelligence. Issues relating to privacy and security suggest that regulations are needed. The increasing amounts of data compounds the issue and makes protecting privacy difficult (Onsrud, 2008).
  10. 10. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 10 Susskind explains that “As late as 2000…only 25 per cent of the world’s stored information was in a digital form. Today that proportion is 98 per cent” (Susskind, 2017, p. 102). The exponential growth of data provides resources that companies and individuals do no currently have the processing power to utilize. However, AI would be able to process this data and provide recommendations. To be precise, AI would be able to make decisions about the uses of public and private data separate from any human influence. For many organizations and individuals, the idea that AI would control data or influence public opinion is unbelievable. Yet, it is possible. As a result of current concerns, laws and regulations for AI are being introduced and revised (O’Reilly, 2009). Still, many involved in the conversation are still debating the nature of oversight and control needed. While some individuals believe that surveillance should not be an issue for those who do not have anything to hide, others believe that privacy is a basic right and due process should be followed (Solove, 2011). The issue of basic rights and due process becomes even more critical when surveillance is mediated by an artificial intelligence (Andrews, 2012). To compound the issue, technology is capable of filtering information to individuals (Pariser, 2012). When AI is involved, filtering information extends beyond altering Google search results to larger implications. Based on pre-defined criteria, AI may withhold information from individuals. While the concept of personalization is intended to augment the human experience, it also limits it. Pariser argues that “While technology’s job is to show you the world, it sits between you and the world like a camera lens (2012, p. 15). In this sense, filters can disconnect or provided a skewed version of the world. Basic issues of trust of and responsibility for AI must be evaluated in terms of future benefits and risks. Future implications of this technology suggest both benefits and risks. Costs and benefits of this science are inseparable (Postman, 1998). The core issue is that, whether intentionally or
  11. 11. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 11 unintentionally, AI may cause harm if not regulated (Markoff, 2016). Incorporating AI into one’s daily experience may affect one’s experience of the world. Eli Pariser examines technology’s ability to influence the human experience: “To be a good citizen, it’s important to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see the big picture. If everything you see is rooted in your own identity, that becomes difficult or impossible” (2012, p. 45). In addition to limiting the human experience, AI may be programmed to influence or control it directly. AI may be used for harm or good. Hackers may use AI for social engineering attacks, while security professionals may use AI to guard against information breaches. Kevin D. Mitnick suggest that it may be helpful to remove human decision-making from the process of preventing information security breaches, “The policies should require use of security technology whenever cost-effective to remove human-based decision-making” (2002, p. 38). The discussion about artificial technology is certainly complex. The impacts and critical decisions relating to AI technology are far from being resolved. Conclusion Seven critical areas indicate that societal impacts and responsibilities related to AI cannot be ignored. Reviewing past perspectives exposes a mixed-view of the impact of AI on humanity. Current progress with AI continues to show that it is more than a possibility. AI will dramatically change how we work. Public discourse will be impacted by AI. Ambient computing will extend the reach of AI impacting individual care and routines. While leaders are examining potential regulations, not enough is being done to educate the public about AI. Future efforts to educate and involve the public could alleviate fears created by recent public statements from leaders in technology fields.
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