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4 min readAI and the future of humans

How will advances in AI affect what it means to be human, to be productive, and to exercise free will?

How will advances in AI affect what it means to be human, to be productive, and to exercise free will? This report published by Pew Research Center summarizing the result of the canvassing experts shows us that despite the advantages and new opportunities offered by AI, many feel that the technology would have negative long-term implications on our civilization.

The 900+ experts surveyed for this research come from various fields – technology pioneers, developers, business leaders, activists, and researchers, among others (see report below to discover some of the experts included in this survey).

Here are the top five concerns relating to AI use:

  1. Individuals may experience a loss of control over their lives as decision-making are ceded to automated systems. If you’ve ever used Waze to navigate while driving, then you have probably felt this. The worst part in automated decision making systems is that you have no way of understanding how these tools work because processes are fully dependent on code.
  2. Data use and surveillance in these complex systems are geared towards profiteering and exercising of power. As such, these digital systems are incompatible with the values and ethics we hold dear as a society. Since these systems are networked and cloaked in code, they will be very difficult to understand and regulate.
  3. AI impact on jobs has been a major source of concern since automation was introduced a few years ago. Beyond the massive loss of jobs, experts worry about the disruption of all aspects of human work and the widening of the economic divide, which in turn could lead to social upheavals and uprisings.
  4. While AI was designed to augment human capacities, experts are concerned that it will serve to replace human capabilities. As people become deeply dependent on machines, there is a possibility for the reduction of the individual cognitive, social, and survival skills. It can mean that people lose the ability to think for themselves, and to take action out of their own initiative.
  5. The erosion of traditional sociopolitical structures could lead to mayhem. The development of automated weaponry, as well as military applications of weaponized information, and the increased use of technology for propaganda could lead to massive loss of lives and increased social unrest. Cybercrime might also increase as technologies for hacking are also improving with AI.

In order to address these concerns, experts believe that there should be rules to adhere to in AI development. Here are the top three suggested solutions:

  1. To serve human’s best interest should be a priority of any technological innovation. With AI, it is important to find ways to connect people, as well as help them come to understandings and agreements that will help solve the world’s biggest problems.
  2. Humans must aggressively safeguard the quality of “humanness” in every technological innovation. Every solution should be built to create inclusive, decentralized systems which are imbued with empathy. To be able to come to this goal, a high degree of regulation and certification process for AI development and release is necessary.
  3. Experts see that our current political and economic system is no longer serving us. If there is any hope for AI serving humanity, we must first reorganize our political and economic systems so that they are oriented towards the expansion of human capacities. Our societal systems must be able to promote better collaboration and must prevent trends that could compromise human relevance in the face of AI.

When asked how the future would look like by 2030, most experts answered that they hope that most individuals would be better off by then. However, there are 37% of experts who feel that people will not be better off in 2030 (Read the full report below to better appreciate the depth of its findings).

Why it matters

What makes this report important is that there is a recognition among experts that our old way of living is coming to an end, and AI will provide the greatest disruption of all our technological innovations. Once AI is used in every facet of our society, there is no going back.

Whether societies will be able to overcome the challenges posed by AI depends on our willingness to explore and implement new ways of thinking and living.

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