The association of AI with common public may have been limited to Hollywood films like Terminator, iRobot, Ex Machina etc a couple of years ago, but the technology today is right here with exponential future possibilities.
These days, billions of people across the globe interact with artificial intelligence on a regular basis through their computers, phones and other smart devices.
It has revolutionized the technology landscape that millions of people reap benefit from.
However, there’re lots of people who’re understandably concerned about the actual impact of artificial intelligence — whether it’s good for the society or not. Finding a proper answer to this question has become even more important as there’re individuals who’re deeply skeptical about AI’s potential and are wary of how the technology is going to impact the society.
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Like any other technological aspect, the debate is complex for AI too.
And of course, there’re benefits and issues along the way, as artificial intelligence becomes more pervasive in human lives.
We should always remember that when there’re challenges, there’re some good opportunities too. And we can’t afford to look at AI with skeptical eyes. Rather, we’ve to understand the benefits it has already offered to our society.
1- Major societal benefits
Some of the key societal benefits that artificial intelligence has brought along are outlined below.
Healthcare has always been one of the focal points of AI. It boasts of a huge amount of data to populate and analyze based on which computational sophistication has been improved by designers.
For instance, Merantix, a German company, applies deep learning to medical issues. It offers an application capable of detecting lymph nodes in the human body in CT (Computer Tomography) images. If the detection is done by humans, the charge would be prohibitively expensive. In this scenario, deep learning trains computers on datasets to learn what an irregular-appearing versus a normal-looking lymph node is. Once done, radiological imaging specialists apply this knowledge to real patients and identify the extent to which somebody is at risk of carcinogenic lymph nodes, at a significantly lower cost.
AI tools can predict substantial challenges lying ahead in advance and offer resources for patient education and proactive interventions, thus helping people to maintain their wellbeing.
Transportation is a field where artificial intelligence together with machine learning has produced major innovations.
Autonomous vehicles like cars, buses, trucks etc use advanced capabilities that offer features like lane-changing systems, automated vehicle guidance, automated braking, use of sensors and cameras for collision avoidance, and analyzing information in real time by using AI, among others.
For instance, AI and LIDARs (light detection and ranging systems) play key roles in collision avoidance and navigation. These instruments provide information that helps to keep fast-moving vehicles in their designated lanes, thus helping them avoid other vehicles and applying brakes when needed etc, thus and ultimately saving human lives by reducing road accidents.
1.3- Prediction of natural disasters
AI is considered as one of the perfect sources of predicting natural occurrences.
There’s an AI model that can almost perfectly guide you what the weather will be for the next couple of days, which was almost unimaginable before the advent of artificial intelligence.
There’s also an incredible system that can predict, based on the simulation of tectonic plates of the earth, the time of volcanic eruptions. There’re AI-enabled projects that gather data for magnetometers of the phone and send it for analysis based on which successful predictions about earthquake can be made.
Farming is another sector that has been heavily benefited from AI. This is an industry full of challenges like competition for natural resources, plateauing agricultural productivity, and rapidly growing population.
In this scenario, consider FarmLogs, a farming management app presently used by many farmers in the US, which uses technology and data to help farmers track the weather, monitor fields, obtain insights into soil utilizing historical satellite imagery, and even identify irregular plant growth.
Real-time data analytics help farmers to maximize their crop yields and thus, in turn, their profits too.
1.5- Strengthened economy
Probably all of us have seen headlines that state something like adoption of AI will lead to unemployment. In reality, this is far from the truth. Artificial intelligence promotes a gradual evolution in the job field, which will be positive with the companies planning ahead.
Humans will still work, but they’ll be working more efficiently with the help of AI.
Besides this unparalleled combination of machine and human, there will be a natural requirement of trained people who’ll be supervising the systems, apart from those who’ll actually do certain jobs. It’ll gradually result into more job openings, thus solidifying the economy.
1.6- Smart cities
AI is being implemented by various authorities to optimize different facilities. Artificial intelligence is considered as a way to deal with large volumes of data and to identify efficient ways of responding to various public requests. Instead of addressing service issues in ad hoc manners, authorities are implementing AI to be proactive in how urban services can be provided.
Smart city applications often use artificial intelligence to improve environmental planning, service delivery, energy utilization, resource management, and crime prevention, among others. Some of the top applications include intelligent traffic signals, e-governance applications, smart meters for utilities, Wi-Fi kiosks etc.
1.7- Overall lifestyle
With the increasing implementation of AI in different segments of society, overall lifestyle of the humans gets enhanced. Some of the mundane tasks such as data entry or answering emails can be performed by intelligent assistants, freeing up precious time for humans to focus on creative aspects of the work.
Smart homes can be made capable of providing better security and reducing energy usage that would greatly promote the concept of a greener environment.
I wrote about that here.
2- Steps we should take
With all the AI benefits, there comes some significant disadvantages as well, but that’s natural for any technology.
The question that is making lots of people worried is this: With too much of authority given to the machines, how can implementation of AI be made more favorable to the society? Or, at the least, how to make it not act like a threat to human life and property?
2.1- Transparency is the key
Results can be questioned even with a greatly planned decision-making system, if the reasoning can’t be demonstrated. For example, if AI has diagnosed an illness, the patient can always ask for a proper reasoning, failing which would lead to non-transparency of the system.
Assuming that artificial intelligence will be making hugely important decisions, implementation of AI has to be perfectly planned and the results have to be transparent and explainable to be accepted by the society. In addition, AI should be use data science to improve the living conditions.
2.2- Importance of AI curriculum
Artificial intelligence should be used where it’s more effective and efficient to employ a machine to handle the task compared to engaging a human brain to perform it.
So, companies should ensure scenarios where success gets replicated in raising the technology, in terms of both costs and resources.
High-quality protocols should also be developed by data scientists when it comes to selecting training data and taxonomies for AI. If it’s trained with patchy, skewed or flawed examples, the results will be going to be unreliable. So, it also needs to be ensured that the data is relevant, appropriate, accurate, diverse, accurately labeled, and representative.
For instance, if an AI-enabled system for hiring recommendations is trained on the data of present and past employees solely, and those employees aren’t diverse (e.g. predominantly older white females), the resulting model would likely be biased unfairly against candidates who’re young, racial minorities, and male. Even after an AI-enabled system is launched, the risk and quality of unfair bias need to be assessed by human overseers in ongoing new training data.
In addition, as we aim to improve the fairness and efficacy of AI with proper training data to benefit the society, we should also keep in mind that fundamental privacy principles are closely related to the massive amounts of data used by AI. Usage and retention of personal data needs to be minimized, while limiting the ways in which that data could be used in the future. Big data analytics solutions include the remedy of these problems.
It’s important to note that AI isn’t able to learn on its own and thus, humans are required to help any type of artificial intelligence obtain a better understanding of all types of jobs, processes, things etc. When it comes to maximizing societal benefits, perhaps the best approach to leverage both AI systems and human-only systems is to do what each of them does best. Leveraging artificial intelligence as well as the best of human ability and values promises greater progress in accountability, transparency, and fairness. And this will be playing a crucial role in building a strong trust for AI in the society.
For instance, AI can be put to work to do the time-consuming analysis of the huge amount of information available.
Building a culture of continuous learning and collaboration is crucial to take maximum advantage of artificial intelligence.
This combined approach is what will make processes and people even more important than they are today. And to make the most out of the technology, society needs to deploy AI that puts humans first, protects human rights, and fosters humans’ trust. Immersive data science experience is proof that we can rely on artificial intelligence.