The rise of AI: 'AI doomsday' or the best thing since sliced bread?

A raft of industry experts have given their views on the likely impact of artificial intelligence on humanity in the future. The responses are unsurprisingly mixed.
Christopher McFadden
Will AI spell doomsday for humanity.jpg
Will AI spell doomsday for humanity?


The Guardian has released an interesting article regarding the potential socioeconomic and political impact of the ever-increasing rollout of artificial intelligence (AI) on society. By asking various experts in the field on the subject, the responses were, not surprisingly, a mixed bag of doom, gloom, and hope. While all experts are concerned about how "bad actors" could manipulate the technology for nefarious activities, they also agree that the potential for the technology is enormous and likely beneficial on the whole (if regulated and controlled intelligently.

“I don’t think the worry is of AI turning evil or AI having some kind of malevolent desire,” Jessica Newman, director of University of California Berkeley’s Artificial Intelligence Security Initiative, told the Guardian. “The danger is from something much more simple, which is that people may program AI to do harmful things, or we end up causing harm by integrating inherently inaccurate AI systems into more and more domains of society,” she added.

Such concerns have led to the coining of the phrase "AI doomsday," which has been doing the rounds quite a lot on social media and in the press. This refers to the impending upheaval of society, from job losses to the spread of so-called "misinformation" that could rock society to the core if left unregulated and controlled in some way. “I am extremely worried about the path we are on,” Newman said. “We’re at an especially dangerous time for AI because the systems are at a place where they appear to be impressive, but are still shockingly inaccurate and have inherent vulnerabilities," she added.

But, as many experts pointed out to the Guardian, AI, in some form or another, has been around for a while now. Algorithms are commonplace on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube that curate the recommended content a user consumes. A combination of "dumb AI" and programmer bias behind the scenes is a prime example of how this technology, if more sophisticated, could be manipulated "in secret" to influence how the public is fed information, effectively propagandizing them one way or another.

And this is where most experts agree that great danger comes from AI in the future. Not nuclear war "The Terminator" style, but a slow, gradual degradation and change of public opinion that could lead to a very dark place. Of course, this is nothing new; political propaganda has been a common tactic of politicians since time immemorial, but AI's speed and reach could be very dangerous. As was seen with various deep fakes over the last few years, such activities could have real-world consequences, like starting wars.

There have also been reported cases of Chatbots, like ChatGPT, convincing users to end their lives, leave their wives, etc. Since the technology "speaks" to users in a convincing personal manner, such AI could gain users' trust and cause severe harm to themselves and others. But, it is not all doom and gloom. While concerns regarding the negative impacts of AI are prevalent among those in the field, not all experts share a pessimistic outlook. A significant number are enthusiastic about the various possibilities and potential benefits that this technology can offer.

“I actually think that this generation of AI technology we’ve just stumbled into could really unlock a great deal of potential for humanity to thrive at a much better scale than we’ve seen over the last 100 years or 200 years,” Anaconda CEO Peter Wang told the Guardian. “I’m actually very, very optimistic about its positive impact. But at the same time I’m looking to what social media did to society and culture, and I’m extremely cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of potential downsides," he added.

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