When new technological advancements come about, an age-old debate arises: will it be beneficial or harmful to society? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no exception. This revolutionary technology has sparked discussions about its impact on society and whether it will ultimately be a force for good or bad. Whenever I have a conversation with a casual observer who knows I work with AI, I get asked some version of that question.
Is artificial intelligence beneficial or harmful to society?
The real answer to the question of whether AI is going to be good or bad for society is yes, both. All new technologies come with inherent good and bat uses, and the waves made by these technologies always have unforeseen repercussions. Usually, the technology itself is neutral and does not have inherent good or bad qualities. It is the people who determine how these technologies are built and used. A good example of this is social media, which has had both positive and negative effects on society.
On one hand, social media has connected people from all over the world, allowing for the sharing of ideas, fostering communities, and providing a platform for marginalized voices to be heard. It has democratized information and played a crucial role in social and political movements. Social media has also opened up new opportunities for businesses, enabling targeted advertising and direct engagement with customers.
However, there have also been negative consequences of social media. It has contributed to the spread of misinformation, cyberbullying, and online harassment. The addictive nature of social media platforms has raised concerns about mental health and privacy. In some cases, social media has been used as a tool for manipulation and political interference.
People determine how technologies like social media are built and used; the same applies to AI. It is our responsibility to ensure that AI is developed and deployed in a way that prioritizes ethical considerations and the well-being of individuals and society as a whole. By understanding the potential benefits and drawbacks of AI, we can make informed decisions and shape its future impact.
The potential good and bad of artificial intelligence
We have seen the good and bad of social media because we felt its effects after the fact. We’ve directly observed the outcomes. But knowing what we now know about how technology can impact society, can we try to anticipate the impacts of AI?
AI’s benefits for society
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to bring about numerous benefits for society. One of the most significant advantages is increased efficiency and productivity in various industries. AI-powered automation can streamline processes, reduce human error, and enhance productivity, leading to cost savings and economic growth.
In the field of healthcare, AI has the power to revolutionize medical advancements. From early disease detection to personalized treatment plans, AI can analyze vast amounts of medical data and assist healthcare professionals in making accurate diagnoses and providing tailored therapies. This can ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes and a more efficient healthcare system.
Furthermore, AI has the potential to enhance customer service and provide personalized experiences. Chatbots and virtual assistants powered by AI can handle customer inquiries, provide real-time support, and personalize recommendations based on individual preferences. This not only improves customer satisfaction but also enables businesses to deliver more tailored and efficient services.
Unintended consequences of AI
While AI holds immense promise, it also presents unintended consequences that must be addressed. One of the primary concerns is job displacement and economic inequality. As AI automation replaces certain tasks and jobs, there is a risk of widespread unemployment and income disparities.
Consider the recent, and still going strike of the writer’s and actor’s unions with the various production houses. A large part of this strike is around the use of AI in the production of our favorite movies and television shows.
“They proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want, with no consent and no compensation,” ~ Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator
This is both a risk of job displacement and economic inequality and serves as a perfect example that it’s people using AI that makes it good or bad. This feels bad, and as we learn more, hopefully, our better selves will prevail.
Data privacy concerns and security risks are other significant challenges associated with AI. The collection and analysis of vast amounts of data raise concerns about the privacy and security of individual’s personal information. Strict regulations and safeguards must be in place to protect data and ensure transparency in how it is used.
Additionally, the increasing reliance on AI technology may lead to a loss of human touch and emotional connection. As AI systems become more sophisticated, there is a risk of diminishing the human element in various aspects of life, such as customer interactions, healthcare, and even personal relationships. It is essential to balance the efficiency and convenience offered by AI and the importance of human connection and empathy.
Striving for the greater good
AI will undoubtedly have both positive and negative consequences for society. It is our collective responsibility to harness the benefits while minimizing the drawbacks. By understanding the role of people in AI, educating ourselves and others, and striving for the greater good, we can ensure that AI contributes positively to our lives. It is through responsible and ethical use that we can shape AI into a force for good and create a future where the benefits of AI outweigh any potential harm.
I am betting on AI to be a force for good because, ultimately, I think our society is filled with more good and amazing people than those who would try to harm or divide us.