What is the fate of humanity in the age of AI?
AI has proven to be a rapidly improving technology applicable to so many aspects of our lives. It has the potential to drastically change the economy, the armed forces, law and policy and other several other important parts of the world. As such, it begs the inevitable question; what will be humanity’s role in the age of AI?
The simple answer is that it depends. Whether the development of AI and robotics becomes a force for good or bad ultimately depends on the choices that are made. The technicians, computer scientists and technology companies will clearly be major stakeholders in the midst of AI’s rise. But lawmaker and world leaders will also need to have critical part to play, as they very often do with regard to technological innovations.
Yet, with that, what should be avoided is governments and lawmakers being too slow to respond to these rapid innovations, which has been a more familiar theme in recent times. Cyberspace has now crept into so many aspects of our lives without any vote on how it should work and how it should be regulated. The consequence is that the free market takes responsibility for these decisions and, as such, privacy and security concerns of the online world were not paid attention to early on, and today they have become some of the greater challenges of cyberspace today. That is not to say that government regulation is always better than free markets, but when the capitalist-driven innovative mindset of Silicon Valley based technology firms overrides the safety-conscious mindset which should also be exercised, not all the technological innovations created can be for the good of humanity in the long run. As Yuval Noah Harari argues, “[i]t is dangerous to trust our future to market forces, because these forces do what’s good for the market rather than what’s good for humankind or for the world.”
Therefore, the future of humanity ultimately lies in humanity’s hands. If the consensus amongst those who continue to fuel the rise of AI is that humans will eventually become redundant in the many aspects of the world as we know it, then that may very well be the fate of humanity in the age of AI. If this possibility materialises, then one unfortunate consequence may be that the fate of humanity lies in the hands of a relatively small group of people, namely the technicians, computer scientists and technology companies producing these technologies. They could very well be perceived, in the same way that many view the banking industry today, as selfish elites whose interests do not focus on the people their activities impact. Instead, these elites, whose work essentially determines the fate of much of the world, care only about their own well-being and not the bigger picture.
As such, technology companies today are often under the spotlight in the aftermath of terrorist. They are criticised for not doing enough to crack down on terrorist-related content and the use of social media and the internet by militant groups to recruit and influence potential sympathisers abroad. Since the government and regulators did not impose their authority on the internet from the beginning, attempting to do so now in an effort to strengthen security becomes much more difficult, since a significant part of this task lies in the hands of those technology companies.
The rise of AI, thus, should be accepted with caution, but not perceived as a guaranteed threat to humanity. In June 2017, it was reported that Google was developing AI-powered software to block terror posts. Thus, in order for AI to be a force for good, the right decisions have to be made. In order for this to happen, it would be ideal to have both lawmakers and technologists to make this a reality, working together to find reasonable solutions to the problems ahead. But if the rise of AI follows the same path as the internet, the effects could be detrimental.
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