Artificial Intelligence: The Benefits & Risks

An article explaining the benefits and risk of AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the subject of debate and sci-fi movies for decades. In recent years, with the birth of SIRI and Alexa the presence of AI in our lives is increasing rapidly. The concept was once something which was fantasised about but now you can find it sitting in your home, work and travel. Some argue that AI will serve to benefit our lives as there are huge educational and developmental implications; others disagree and claim that our increasing reliance on AI could be detrimental. Artificial intelligence has changed and now shaped the way that we perform certain task. Previously, we could not imagine living in a world with machines with the capability to recognise our faces, voices and searches but now it would seem that cannot imagine a world without these processes.
AI is most simply defined as the science of creating computers and machines which are capable of completing tasks and processes which requires intelligence when performed by humans. Many people are not aware of what AI is and the impact that it has on their everyday life. Although AI seems as though it may be a futuristic concept, we have already begun to adopt many of these systems within our everyday life without even realising it. Many people may think that AI is a replication of human intelligence or that it is created to mimic human characteristics, but this is not the case. Artificial intelligence incorporates everything from suggested searches and travel routes to autonomous weapons and self checkouts.
One example of AI could be sitting in your hand or in your pocket. The speech recognition functionality of your smartphone is one incredible example of AI and how we have grown to rely on it.  The concept of this intelligence is no longer alien to us, it is something that many of us in society have readily adopted and encourage new development and research. We can now instruct our phones to search for us through a mere few voice commands and this affords us the time to carry out other tasks. Artificial intelligence is beginning to play a key role in many of our lives and it does add an element of convenience to some of our more mundane daily activities, such as shopping at the grocery store. Rather than queuing up to be served by a person, you can now take your items to a checkout and pay for them with little to no assistance. Although using a self-checkout service may be convenient, it does mean that you are engaging in an activity that has replaced another person's job.

Pioneers of AI have argued that although some jobs have been replaced by the technology, the research into this field has created countless roles for people. One of the benefits which many experts have used to argue the case of AI is that it could serve to help humans improve their own skills and cognitive functions as the technology provides us with a greater challenge. This is in the sense that AI has already helped chess players to become more skilled and strategic. As a result of this, there is potential that the technology could help us become better doctors, teachers, drivers and engineers. Those who hold this belief say that AI is a tool that will aid us, rather than an imminent threat which is set to destroy or harm mankind.
Over the past few decades AI has become to creep into multiple aspects of our lives and it is now something that we are familiar with on a daily basis. Whenever you decide to take a trip and use GPS, it processes potential routes and delays all within a matter of seconds and minutes through the power of AI. The phone in your pocket can now understand and interpret your speech; it certainly has come a long way since the introduction of the mobile phone which resembled the appearance of a brick and had limited functions. People all over the world are engaging with this technology every single day as it helps to guide us to different places, recommend different books, search engine results and facial recognition on our favourite social media platforms. AI has been introduced into many aspects of our lives. We can now buy a train ticket, print luggage tags, check into medical centres and buy our groceries with minimal human interaction.
This innovative technology has hit the mainstream headlines countless times over recent years as more and more companies unveil their plans for driverless cars. Artificial intelligence is also playing a key role in terms of science and medicine. Hospitals can now use AI to determine which patients are more likely to encounter complications and potential interactions between medicines. The implications of AI can be life-saving. This begs the question, what are the risks?
The benefits associated with AI are seemingly perfect but this technology does carry risks. One of the potential risks which has been highlighted is the effect that programming errors would have on this technology. Those who use their phones and computers on a daily basis will be used to the sudden crashes which can occur and if the AI technology was engaged with a potential life-saving task, it is possible that lives could be at risk as a result of crashes and ‘bugs’.

Another risk of reliance on this technology is the issue of cyberattacks. The number of cyberattacks that occur is increasing as more and more criminals and adversaries try to infiltrate our systems with powerful viruses and malware. The algorithms which are involved in AI technology could be susceptible to these viruses and if these struck during crucial situations such as decision making. As a result of this, before we are able to put high-stake decisions in the hands of AI algorithms we would need to be confident that they would be able to survive large scale and aggressive cyberattacks.
In addition to this, different situations in life can be extremely unpredictable and one of the challenges of AI is ensuring that ‘good behaviour’ is performed when unexpected situations and scenarios arise. How can this be expected of a machine that does not have human morals? An example of this would be surgery, even the most routine operations can have complications and this would mean that the technology would need to be taught not only how to complete the operation, but how to react in unforeseen circumstances.
Many people have fears of AI and giving control over to machines. This fear stems from the possibility that we could potentially create an autonomous system which exceeds our own capabilities which would be a threat to human survival. One of the important questions that must be considered is whether we ready to create strong AI. The risk with creating this form of intelligence is that we could ultimately design technology which could conduct its own self-improvement. However, although there has been continual research into this technology, it is important to remember that it is still within its early stages and as a result there is no need to fear that you will wake up tomorrow in an dystopian nightmare.
There are several ways in which AI can be dangerous. Although the technology cannot experience human emotions, morals or have opinions, if it is programmed to do something which would be detrimental it would not have the same thought pattern that humans have to then stop the action. In addition, the algorithm could be programmed to have a positive result, such as transporting you to a destination quickly in an autonomous, but could have a negative process to do this. In this instance, you may request the technology to get you to a location as fast as possible, but it may be done at the expense of your safety and the safety of pedestrians in its path.
Ultimately, it would seem that although there has been research and advancement into creating artificial intelligence, we are by no means approaching an era that will be dominated by malevolent super-intelligence. This type of technology appears to afford us an array of opportunities and makes certain aspects of our lives such as travel, navigation and shopping more convenient in the fast-paced world in which we live in. However, there are a number of risks which must be eradicated before this technology can flourish. Despite the controversies, AI intelligence has already started to impact the way in which we live our lives. Super-intelligent technology can serve to aid us but this does not mean that it can replace humans entirely, we still need people to run companies, make decisions and make moral judgements.

AI harbours countless benefits and risks which could prove to have a dramatic impact on the way that we live our lives. Technology is changing at a rapid pace and it is up to us to decide whether it is to be embraced or whether it is to be feared. The creation of a super-intelligent and self-developing technology could be years, decades or even centuries away, but the large scientific and academic interest in this field means that we are forever getting closer to a dramatic revolution.