An old Chinese idiom says “water can carry a boat or overturn it” (“水能载舟，亦能覆舟” ). This might be the best description for a thousand plus artificial intelligence experts, including Alon Musk, calling to stop the development of powerful AI systems. What are they afraid of?
Artificial Intelligence aims to create machines and software that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence and decision-making. AI has many potential benefits for society, it liberates people from monotonous tasks, and it helps to improve in various areas such as health care, education, transportation, and entertainment. However, AI also poses some significant risks and controversies that need to be addressed and managed carefully.
Here are some of the main risks of AI and how they can affect individuals and communities.
One of the key challenges of AI is how to protect the privacy and security of the data that is used to train and operate AI systems. AI often relies on large amounts of personal and sensitive data, such as health records, financial transactions, social media posts, and biometric information. This data can be collected, stored, analyzed, and shared by various actors, such as governments, corporations, hackers, or malicious agents. If this data is not properly protected or regulated, it can lead to breaches of confidentiality, identity theft, fraud, discrimination, or manipulation.
Another major risk of AI is that it can reflect and amplify the biases and prejudices of its creators or users. AI systems are often programmed by humans who may have implicit or explicit biases based on their culture, background, values, or beliefs. These biases can affect how AI systems are designed, tested, deployed, and evaluated. For example, an AI system that is trained on a dataset that underrepresents a certain gender or ethnic group may produce inaccurate or unfair results when applied to that group.
A lack of transparency
A related risk of AI is that it can be difficult to understand how AI systems work and why they make certain decisions or recommendations. AI systems can be complex, opaque, or unpredictable, especially when they use advanced techniques such as deep learning or reinforcement learning. These techniques involve multiple layers of processing and learning from data that can be hard to interpret or explain. This can pose challenges for accountability, trustworthiness, and ethical oversight of AI systems.
Even if AI systems are programmed with good intentions and unbiased data, they can still develop biases over time due to their interactions with the environment or feedback from users. AI systems can learn from new data or experiences that may introduce new sources of bias or error. For example, an AI system that is exposed to online hate speech or misinformation may adopt harmful or misleading views. Alternatively, an AI system that is optimized for a certain objective or metric may neglect other important factors or values.
Liability for actions
A further risk of AI is that it can raise legal and moral questions about who is responsible for the actions and outcomes of AI systems. AI systems can act autonomously or semi-autonomously in various domains and contexts, such as driving cars, diagnosing diseases, trading stocks, or fighting wars. These actions can have significant impacts on human lives and well-being. However, it can be unclear who should be held accountable or liable for these impacts if something goes wrong or harms someone. Is it the developer, the user, the owner, the operator, the regulator, or the system itself?
Too big a mandate
A final risk of AI is that it can challenge the role and authority of humans in society. AI systems can perform tasks that are traditionally done by humans better, faster, or cheaper. This can create opportunities for innovation and efficiency but also threats for displacement and disruption. AI systems can also influence human behavior and decision-making through persuasion, nudging, or manipulation. This can affect human autonomy and dignity. Moreover, AI systems can potentially surpass human intelligence and capabilities in the future. This can raise existential questions about the purpose and value of human existence.
These are some of the main risks of AI that we need to be aware of and address as we develop and use this technology. We need to ensure that AI is aligned with human values and interests and that it respects human rights and dignity. We need to establish clear standards and regulations for the design and deployment of AI systems and ensure their transparency and accountability. We need to foster collaboration and dialogue among various stakeholders and experts to ensure ethical and responsible use of AI.