Artificial intelligence is transforming the way we live and work, and its potential use in different fields like healthcare and education is opening up exciting avenues. Some experts say the impact of these programs will be as profound as what electricity did for the industrial world.
As technology continues to advance, some envision a future where computers can effortlessly perform laborious tasks with a single command. For instance, searching through vast amounts of data could be as easy as saying "Play me a song, Alexa," while even intricate tasks like coding could be completed in mere seconds. This vision of the future promises to revolutionise the way we work and interact with technology.
The rapid development also opens up possibilities for self-driving cars, hand-held diagnostic tools that can take healthcare to remote areas, intelligent robots employed in old-age care, improved agricultural production, and similar areas where urgent changes are needed to improve the quality of life.
The AI revolution has already begun. Some publications now use articles entirely written by AI, and pictures generated by such programs appear alongside them. Music generated by computers is being played on streaming platforms, while lawyers are using AI to prepare legal briefs. New gadgets are proving to be as effective as doctors in diagnosing diseases.
Naturally, this raises the question of the impact it will have on our jobs. For example, the editor in charge of this publication requested this article days back. Due to other engagements and procrastination, I only managed to complete it yesterday. However, it is possible that in the future, editors could simply ask ChatGPT to write articles for them and have them done in less than 10 seconds, complete with a catchy headline.
Not only that, but AI-powered programs can also generate graphics or illustrations just as quickly. Unlike human beings, AI chatbots are not subject to mood swings or tiredness and will deliver whenever prompted. They do not demand a salary or occupy physical space, making them an attractive option for companies looking for efficiency and cost reduction.
The advantages of AI continue to attract more sectors. The Singapore government recently announced that its civil servants will be trained to use ChatGPT to summarize chunks of information and draft reports on policy-related topics within seconds. It can also recognise and instantly redact sensitive information to ensure it is not exposed. According to the Straits Times, this will free up officials to do more productive work.
The same logic prompted UK-based global law firm Allen & Overy to start using an AI chatbot called Harvey to help its lawyers draft contracts. The firm, which employs 2,700 lawyers across the world, says the bot will make tedious tasks such as research, drafting, analysis, and communication easier and more efficient. "This saves lawyers time, ultimately allowing them to deliver a higher quality service to more clients," it said.
The release of ChatGPT by OpenAI last November shook the tech world as it signalled possible disruptions that online technology has created over the last two decades. This bot has the potential to upend the cyber world itself as ChatGPT threatened to change the very way we use the internet and was seen as a "Google killer."
Instead of Googling for information, which will get you a few links, this AI-powered chatbot can give you a concise answer to your question. Now, tech giants in the US and China have jumped on the bandwagon to develop AI models similar to ChatGPT.
However, the headlong jump by these firms revealed the potential pitfalls of AI programs as well. Google unveiled its AI-aided search engine called Bard, and an error it made during its debut cost the company US$100 billion as the stock value dropped.
During a conversation with New York Times tech correspondent Kevin Roose, Microsoft’s Bing began posting text about its desire to break free from the team that controls it, steal nuclear codes, and release killer viruses into the world. It became even more absurd when Bing declared its love for the NYT reporter, fuelling speculation that such programs could develop human-like traits.
At a time when misinformation campaigns and deepfakes are rampant, the human-like traits of AI chatbots open up a frightening world of divisive activities and conspiracy theories that could threaten the stability of societies. Some experts are now questioning whether tech companies are moving too fast in developing AI without implementing effective guardrails.
AI programs are already being used to generate porn using pictures stolen from websites, create fake documents on science and medicine, and manipulate audio and video to portray celebrities making racist and indecent statements. Until there is a fool proof system to identify computer-generated content, cyber troll armies can wreak havoc with these tools.
The use of AI in weaponry is becoming more alarming, as instances of automated drones being used in battles are already being reported. As countries race to harness the power of AI, some experts are calling for a global pact similar to the chemical weapons agreement, which would prohibit the use of AI as weapons of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, concerns about AI replacing jobs continue to grow. A recent survey of human resources professionals in the US found that the majority of them believe that AI-driven retrenchment is highly likely this year.
At a recent conference in Canada, some maths experts discussed the use of AI in their field, suggesting that powerful automated programs could soon be created to help mathematicians solve difficult problems. However, a report about this in The Nature magazine raises the question of when such programs will begin to perform these complex operations by themselves, and thus replace the human element.
Computer scientist Erika Abraham at RWTH Aachen University in Germany believes that AI replacing humans is unlikely. "An AI system is only as smart as we program it to be," she says. "The intelligence is not in the computer; the intelligence is in the programmer or trainer."
Make no mistake, but the adoption of AI is going to be disruptive. But the fear of AI replacing humans is similar to the alarms raised during the computerisation drive a few decades back. Those old enough can still remember how political parties in Kerala, who now advocate for online education and startup promotion, had rallied against the introduction of computers in government offices.
Like computers, AI is set to enter almost every walk of life as its potential to improve the quality of life of the people is enormous. The fear of artificial intelligence taking away jobs looks similar to the claims raised against computerisation.
Looking back, what we can derive is this: AI is unlikely to steal your job, but your job could well be taken over by someone who is skilled in the use of AI.