These are the AI risks we should be focusing on
Since the dawn of the computer age, humans have viewed the approach of artificial intelligence (AI) with some degree of apprehension. Popular AI depictions often involve killer robots or all-knowing, all-seeing systems bent on destroying the human race. These sentiments have similarly pervaded the news media, which tends to greet breakthroughs in AI with more alarm or hype than measured analysis. In reality, the true concern should be whether these overly-dramatized, dystopian visions pull our attention away from the more nuanced — yet equally dangerous — risks posed by the misuse of AI applications that are already available or being developed today.
AI permeates our everyday lives, influencing which media we consume, what we buy, where and how we work, and more. AI technologies are sure to continue disrupting our world, from automating routine office tasks to solving urgent challenges like climate change and hunger. But as incidents such as wrongful arrests in the U.S. and the mass surveillance of China’s Uighur population demonstrate, we are also already seeing some negative impacts stemming from AI. Focused on pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, companies, governments, AI practitioners, and data scientists sometimes fail to see how their breakthroughs could cause social problems until it’s too late.
Therefore, the time to be more intentional about how we use and develop AI is now. We need to integrate ethical and social impact considerations into the development process from the beginning, rather than grappling with these concerns after the fact. And most importantly, we need to recognize that even seemingly-benign algorithms and models can be used in negative ways. We’re a long way from Terminator-like AI threats — and that day may never come — but there is work happening today that merits equally serious consideration.