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Artificial Intelligence is on the rise, but has anyone considered the implications?

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Achieved through a mixture of deep learning, reasoning (or using rules to reach a conclusion) and self-correction, artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence by computers or machines, and it is being developed rapidly.

Last month, during the Digital Transformation Expo, we had the opportunity to see first-hand examples from companies actively researching and applying AI. The findings were impressive, but a pattern soon emerged – the focus was on the technology, rather than understanding the possible implications of it.  

During one session, we listened to Avast, a company actively working in digital security through artificial intelligence. Avast touched on the role of ethics and responsibility in the age of AI and addressed a common concern they often face, ‘Where will AI leave us as humans if the tech is bound to become better than us?’ Avant explained how artificial intelligence can only work when the tasks are defined appropriately by human intervention – without one, the other simply will not work. 

The most familiar application of AI we use readily in the public is voice assistant technology. Avast pointed out how users were initially concerned about this technology and the data it collects, but what we have to understand is that data about us is constantly being collected and the issue is how the data is used. Humans are in fact more likely to misuse other people’s data, regardless of how it is collected.

Avast also spoke about how AI can be used to target people. One of the most interesting applications is the creation of fake videos where an image of a person is animated using AI-based editing software. This can give the impression of lifelike movement, which one day could not only be used to sway voters during elections but could be used to persuade people out of money if they believed a loved one was in danger for example. Although it is still in its early stages, considering the rate in which technology is moving, it won’t be long before a real case scenario will surface. 

An interesting case study in the world of healthcare was also considered during the Expo. Healthcare is a sensitive use-case for this, but as a general rule, a job can’t be replaced by AI unless the performance delivers 100% accuracy all the time. Trials have been performed to identify particular ailments in patients, but even a one-time fault is enough to avoid using the technology at this stage. Machines simply cannot work as successfully as human doctors as it currently stands.

There is a lot to be said about the ethics of AI. It is unstoppable, and it is becoming increasingly important for us to prepare for the changes. Efforts are being made to help organisations find the best ways to adapt to change. We need to assume responsibility as a society to ensure technology works for us rather than against us, especially at the rate in which it is evolving.

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