The Future of Life: Why AI will be Good and Bad

The world is still reeling from the success of Avengers: Endgame. We’ve been Number 1 for some time now.

A befitting send-forth to one of the most iconic actors to grace the franchise; Iron Man (Robert Downing Jnr.).  All is forgiven after his sacrifice elevated him to the status of hero. All is forgiven, even the creation of Ultron, the villain in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The robot villain powered by Tony’s own AI assistant Jarvis. Ultron’s first form as a scraggly lump of pieced-together-metal was a far cry from his consequent iterations that were self-created. These iterations were stronger, smarter and more refined till his final form during the Sokovian Battle.

What value do Ultron and every human have in common? Every human as its base wants power and control. This is a narrative that has dominated the entire span of human history. From Genghis Khan to Alexander the Great to Adolf Hitler, the reasons behind these values differ, but the results are usually the same. Different types of creation. From the Paleolithic to the Mesolithic and Neolithic Eras, mankind gradually evolved weapons first to protect itself from wild animals, then to improve their lives, next to defend themselves from external aggression and finally for subjugation. Perhaps the most devastating show of power in recent times was the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Little Boy and Fat Man respectively; atomic bombs that represented the forward-thinking nature of humankind.

The manner in which we handle power when placed in our hands provokes either good or bad results. Do the right things with enough measures in place to curtail abuse of power, you get good results. Do the right things without measures to curtail abuse of power and you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Yours truly

Artificial Intelligence has seemingly become the next big thing in technology since the era of microchip processors though we’ve only been able to thoroughly crack one part of it; machine learning… deep learning. This is what dominates most of the products and services infused with AI such as Cortana, Siri, and other digital assistants.

Now, imagine for a second that computers have been designed to think like humans except they are devoid of emotions and anything that can cloud rationality. Imagine computer-powered neural networks that independently solve problems with such uncanny accuracy.

The efficiency and capabilities these pose to the world are tremendous, as we’ve already seen in a plethora of ways that AI has found in our daily routines. Some of these areas are;

Security: This has always been fundamental for humans, and technology has significantly improved home security through AI integrated security systems such as alarms and cameras. Machine learning and facial recognition software have been employed to build a database of regular visitors thereby being able to detect unwanted guests. These security systems powered by AI can also call emergency services independently in the wake of a threat to life and property.

Transportation: According to a study that focused on the Google Waymo that drove about 1.3 million road miles altogether, AI-powered cars have surpassed human drivers. These self-driving vehicles are able to adjust immediately to conditions as they learn from new occurrences. In fact, Uber’s entire future is hinged on cracking self-driving cars.

Healthcare: Another sector that has benefitted hugely from AI is the delivery of healthcare. Healthcare facilities that treat patients whilst utilizing machine learning see fewer cases of healthcare associated infections.

Now imagine these same computers with instant access to almost every piece of information about every person who’s ever lived. Not just every person, but every event, place, country, etc. These computers can process these large amounts of information in seconds and make decisions off them, whilst having control over the world’s economy. Extend this to the abilities of machine learning where the AI is able to self-learn and adjust its skills to situations that weren’t prepared by the programmer. Imagine a group of computers learning how to use these skills in a new way, imagine these computers thinking on their own. Imagine these computers as ‘leaders.’

“At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die,” “But for an AI there would be no death. It would live forever, and then you’d have an immortal dictator, from which we could never escape.”

Elon Musk

At least, humans can die or be killed, but imagine how Ultron was able to reproduce itself in other robots, this borders on immortality. It is basically the Intersect in the head of John Casey in Episode 1 of Chuck.

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX called this the unkillable digital dictator.

Like all things available to man, there are three sides. At the top of the coin are the endless positives of AI, at the bottom is the plethora of ways it can be used for evil, and at the middle is mankind with his value system.

The challenge was never Artificial Intelligence just as the problem has never been guns because guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The real challenge will be the counter-measures put in place because if history has proven anything, it’s that mankind will always find a way to mismanage the powers that be for selfish interests. It is, therefore, a challenge of the value system. Much of the proponents and experts of AI are millennial(s) and/or Gen XYZs. What values have they embraced in the quest to improve the world through AI? Nonetheless, it is only just a matter of time before AI will be used for negative reasons. How many regulations have been drawn up to manage this unraveling?

The conundrum thus lies between reconciling the endless capabilities of Artificial Intelligence with the necessary boundaries needed to curtail any overarching destructive tendencies that are so particular to mankind. After all, Tony fixed his problem and agreed to the Sokovia Accords in a bid to curtail another disaster.

Can we fix ours should our creation go rogue?

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