There are a lot of articles in the press lately concerning Artificial Intelligence. Sadly many of these articles are incredibly negative in nature. This type of response is to be expected, however, given that in general, many people are resistant to change. Add to this the fact that artificial intelligence has the potential to radically change society and a sense of scepticism is hardly surprising. The fears around artificial intelligence are also not without some merit. If implemented improperly AI could lead to a dystopian future straight out of a sci-fi movie or novel. This fear has helped feed many of the negative articles like those linked above. The concept of the AI Takeover is not a new one and worries about such an occurrence can be traced over decades not just in opinion pieces but also popular culture as the evil AI is a favourite villain found in movies, television, and even video games.
The idea behind this fear is that no one has considered the dangerousness of AI development if left unmonitored and unchecked. Luckily this is not the case as there are many people and larger organizations concerned about the changes AI will bring on a larger scale and how to best utilize it for positive results. It will certainly not be developed solely based on scientific advancement without any human or societal considerations carefully taken into account.
Various Futures And Working Backwards
Futurist refers to an individual focused on the study of how to guide and shape future events to lead to the best possible outcome for future society. Concepts such as technology, city planning, food scarcity, economics, and artificial intelligence make up the study of futurology which includes academics, industry experts, laypersons, and individuals from a multitude of backgrounds. An important aspect of futurology is the concept of the multiple futures humanity may reach, how to work towards the most positive ones, and how to avoid the most negative ones (or at the very least mitigate possible dangers). While such groups study a variety of areas artificial intelligence has become a key talking point in recent years due to advancements in the field. As noted above the fear many feel about AI is one that has to be addressed and people will need to be reassured that events are not occurring without oversight or protective measures. People are thinking about the implications of AI and their numbers are growing.
A Growing Movement
The growing evolution of AI as not only a concept but an applied application has lead to greater consideration about what this means for human civilization. The future of AI isn’t just a collection of elites making world changing decisions on the top floor of an exclusive office building. Several groups (such as the World Future Society) have sprung up composed of members from all walks of life, professions, and backgrounds who are dedicated to using AI and related developments to build a better future. The energy and insight of many people will not only guide toward a more productive future but also protect against the worst possible outcomes by asking not can we do this but should we do this. This will occur not only on the grassroots level but also in government as important futurist leaders communicate with governments around the world. Much like open source software has benefited from contributions from anyone willing to assist AI will also have these benefits as the number of people interested in, serving as advisors, and working in the field grows.
The Future Is Not Written
As noted above the future is not an all or nothing proposition. There are multiple outcomes that can occur and the events that can lead to drastically different futures can appear to be relatively minor. When considering the absoluteness of future outcomes it is important to look to history. It is only through the benefit of hindsight that the past appears to be something that was set in stone. When looking back at past events remember that for the people living during these times things were not an unchangeable absolute and for those of us looking to the future the same is also true. Anyone saying they know 100 percent what will happen is either dangerously sure of themselves or lying to you. The future is always in flux and events that can radically change what is occurring may not be visible until specific key moments. This is a comforting thing because it means that AI is a work in progress and one that can be perfected and modified as circumstances change. Even if negative events occur they don’t need to be permanent and can be corrected and also serve as an important lesson.
Choices Have To Be Made
To summarize AI is not being developed without input or oversight. As the above shows, there is a multitude of highly skilled and educated people putting forth a great deal of effort and thought about what the future holds. There are important choices, challenges, dangers, and opportunities that will not only be faced but cannot be avoided. This is not a bad thing as the more people there are devoted to giving such important decisions the rigorous thought they deserve the better the results. AI has an amazing potential to change civilization and through the work of thousands dystopia will be avoided and a better future created.