Is ‘Black Mirror’ a sign of the dystopian future of AI?

Published: July 11, 2019 12:30:30 AM

In Vietnam, for instance, a crop intelligence system is being developed in which farmers can upload pictures of their crops to get a better understanding of their existing plantations.

AI can also play a vital role in helping alleviate the struggles workers in laborious jobs face. AI can also play a vital role in helping alleviate the struggles workers in laborious jobs face.

By Sumir Bhatia

Just earlier this year, Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science announced that its undergrads can now major in one of the most hyped computer science fields: Artificial Intelligence (AI). This was interesting as besides addressing the increasing need for specialists in AI, the course also explores the issues of ethics and social responsibility—including how AI can be used for social good, such as improving transportation, health care or education.

However, despite its contributions to society, is there a possibility of a stark and dystopian future for AI? Technology has evolved in a way far beyond our wildest imagination, radically changing the way in which the world moves—are we ready for it?

Pop culture – including shows such as Black Mirror often present a world where we are enslaved by machines, citing issues relating to privacy and ethics. But does this mean that we are headed for digital dystopia?

The case for caution
While there have been a number of concerns, including issues relating to privacy and ethics, one of the most pressing concerns amongst the public, is the fear of large-scale job losses due to AI. This, however, is far from the truth. According to a report by Gartner, it is estimated that while 1.8 million jobs will be eliminated worldwide due to AI, a whopping 2.3 million jobs will be created in its place.

The idea of AI having the power to destroy the human race (if placed in the wrong hands) is also a concern for many. Given AI’s inability to emote, show empathy and potential to stray from a programmed moral system, this opinion tends to create a sense of uncertainty amongst the general population. Given such circumstances, it is important for a more widespread education on the many positive uses of AI.

The road to utopia
While AI can be scary if in the wrong hands, AI can also enable innovative research that advances humanitarian efforts in crucial sectors such as healthcare. For instance, we’ve been working with research scientists in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National Taipei University of Technology for brain research—which has resulted in a video game that allows participants to control and race virtual cars via cerebral activity.

AI can also play a vital role in helping alleviate the struggles workers in laborious jobs face. In Vietnam, for instance, a crop intelligence system is being developed in which farmers can upload pictures of their crops to get a better understanding of their existing plantations. The system, named Sero, enables farmers to identify sick crops as well as a diagnosis on the kind of disease their crops suffer from – it even provides solutions on how to treat these issues!

The future
While it is true that AI has evolved quicker than anticipated, there has been little evidence to suggest that this progress will eventually impede our control over them. We’ve only scratched the surface of AI’s potential in helping solve humanity’s greatest challenge, and it is safe to assume that the real dystopian future is one that is absent of AI. Instead, we have to redefine the concept of ‘work’—to begin moving away from a society where one’s social value is derived from working jobs. By beginning to understand that AI works alongside us to facilitate productivity, we are freed up to not only take on more challenging tasks that require human empathy and judgement, but we can then start to contribute on a deeper social level – through community service and expanded leisure time with family, for example.

We shouldn’t fight the growth of AI, we should complement it.

The writer is president, Asia Pacific, Lenovo Data Centre Group

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