By Daniel Okotako

Are we enough when it comes to the realms of thinking? Does artificial intelligence tell us that we aren’t?

The rather overused buzzword in recent years has gathered attention from many G7 nations who are investing so much into this branch of computer science. In the fall of 2017, the UK budget courts released plans to invest more than £500 million on artificial intelligence and other technologies such as 5G and full fibre broadband. So the question is why?

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence is the study of intelligence in machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence that humans possess. We are already seeing the usefulness and importance of such technology in our every day gadgets. For example, our phones, tablets and computers all operate AI in various forms, from predictive Internet search known as narrow AI to face recognition. And this technology just keeps on evolving. We now have researchers currently trying to nurture strong AI that could end up outperforming humans on every cognitive task. This is absolutely exciting but also somewhat frightening at the same time.

Some AI robots have already taken on human features

Why does this matter today?

Artificial intelligence is growing exponentially and may be very useful for the health, automobile and defence industries. Take for example the NHS. During the Christmas winter period of 2017, their services were thinly stretched due to a high demand for doctors against increased capacity constraints. As a result, approximately 16,900 people were kept in ambulances during this period which was of course met with anger and frustration from British citizens. In many ways, AI could have indeed helped to reduce that number significantly.

The director of Global Cognitive Health solutions, David Chapeaux recently said, “One way to address the staff shortages is to train digital employees equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) to assist doctors and nurses and relieve them from the high volume of routine and administrative tasks and free up more time for patients.”

The NHS recently faced harsh criticism

Are we prepared for AI?

However, even though such technologies may help ease the pressures on the NHS, it would cause a massive shift in the skillset of professionals who could potentially be replaced by AI taking over their roles. This is a recurrent theme in the anti-AI argument; that AI will replace paid labour in much needed jobs. Although there is undoubtedly some truth to this, only time will tell the extent to which it will affect people in different industries. For example, in manufacturing, AI will significantly cut huge amounts of work that was once carried out by unskilled workers. However, in industries such as finance and health, AI will not necessarily outperform and overtake workers, but will rather mean professionals will need to diversify their skill set in order to use the new tools AI provides them to carry out tasks.

The big warning

Fundamentally, it would seem the concerns many people may have with AI are largely to do with its rapid levels of storing information and potential ability to grow independently of humans. Questions are forming as to the extent to which they can be morally sound against our pursuit to live an efficient and productive life. In terms of the great extreme, there could be the development of autonomous weaponry designed to kill, and what would ensue would be an all out arms race in AI. In light of current affairs, this is by far one of the most reasonable claims when considering the speed at which the nuclear arms race has developed between the United States and North Korea. The tech entrepreneur and CEO of Tesla, Elon musk, recently warned us that AI needs to be regulated ‘proactively’ because of fears that large multi-national corporations may have too much concentration in the research of AI. So, it goes without saying, we need to be mindful of this technology if it is going to become an integral part of everyday society in the very near future.

 

Daniel is a student studying mathematics with computer science at the University of Essex. He has a strong passion for technology, specifically machine learning. Daniel is also interested in hip hop, Japanese culture and poetry . In his spare time he loves creating websites.