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Artificial Intelligence: The inevitability we should fear

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here, and has been for the best part of a decade. Apple’s Siri has been listening to our requests since 2012, and Amazon’s Alexa is now getting in on the intelligent home action. In certain professions, doctors have been using AI software in hospitals to diagnose rare types of cancer since the early 00s and disruptive fintech start-ups are now leaving the running of the stock market to AI computer programmes that can predict market trends without a human’s input.

For the uninitiated, Artificial Intelligence is a form of computer programming that does not require any human input once it has been programmed. The theory is that the computer algorithm is truly intelligent – able to learn from its experiences and to adapt to any outcome it comes across within its parameters.

Within the next 50 years or so, it is inevitable that humans will have created a ‘super intelligence’. If Alexa can already respond to your off the cuff request to play ‘that new song by Jay Z’ then this is a certainty.

However, a new warzone of the 21st century has emerged – the cyber zone. Without a doubt, there is a cyber-arms-race between the developed countries of the world to create the ultimate ‘super intelligence’. From Russia, to China to America and even at home in the UK, the race is on to be one step ahead of the rest. Not only for mere kudos factor, but because the country or state that holds the power of true AI will be unstoppable.

So, the question on everyone’s lips is how do we create the ultimate artificial intelligence? Currently, it is only the quest to find this answer that is driving forward development in AI. We are so consumed by discovering the method and creating ‘super intelligence’ for its own sake and to beat the rest that we have failed to have the appropriate emotional response to the very idea of Artificial Intelligence – fear.

The absence of fear has resulted in us failing to ask vital questions about AI. How will we live and work with AI? What role will AI have in our future? How will we ensure AI is safe for all and not just the chosen few?

In the future workplace where AI machine and human work side by side, humans’ success will no longer be determined by productivity or efficiency. This is the domain of the machine – the calculator’s innate ability is already fundamentally better than a human’s ability to do sums. Are we prepared for a workplace where human output is based purely on lateral and creative thinking rather than how well we can fill in an excel spreadsheet?

As more and more industries integrate AI into their ecosystems, the decisive test will be how well we work together with AI machines. Ultimately, the best patient diagnosis will not come from a human Dr alone nor an intelligent machine alone – it will be a team effort with Dr and machine working seamlessly in tandem.

The problem we currently face however is that if we continue to fail to have the appropriate emotional response to AI – fear – then we will never ask these imperative questions. So, when in 50 years’ time we have created the ultimate ‘super intelligence’ we will be stuck, not knowing how we should work with AI or how best to move forward. The ultimate catch 22 of the 21st century.

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