The stakes are high. Jobs will vanish. Quantum computer-powered despotic overlords from the digital ethosphere are coming to get you.

At least this is what the media keep telling us. Truck drivers, train drivers and taxi drivers will lose their jobs. Automation based on AI technology will render us all redundant. Universal Basic Income will come to save us and enable us to live a life of creative leisure. Society will implode. Capitalism will crumble. Anarchy will reign supreme until the digital overlords figure out a way to suppress man- and womankind.

Or maybe not.

While AI has taken huge leaps forward in the last number of years thanks to the age of Big Data, we are still in its infancy. AI is only as intelligent as we make it, and we haven’t figured out how to create General Artificial Intelligence yet (the kind that could have the potential to create the dystopian scenarios outlined above).

I recently spoke to a professor of AI and he laughed heartily at the idea of AI ruining our working world and turning us into subservient creatures of leisure and pleasure (ho-hum).

The data used by AI needs to be formatted, curated, cleaned and processed to such an extent that it removes any possibility for AI to pick up the ball and run with it, so to speak.

We live in a world of Narrow AI – where data sets are used with the desire to perform one or more simple tasks that are either immensely boring for analysts or subject to the requirements of precision beyond the bounds of human capabilities.

Take the recent success of AI in scanning mammograms for cancerous growths. AI performed this task much better than the healthcare professionals.

Artificial Intelligence today is little more than a middle-aged man hiding behind a curtain making loud and scary noises that intimidate those in the vicinity. It will change, evolve and eventually General Artificial Intelligence will emerge, capable of rational, ethical and constructive thinking. But this is some way off.

In the meantime, feel assured that today’s Narrow AI that performs simple, large and repetitive tasks that require accuracy, are making our world a better place.

What we need to think about is how we regulate and administrate AI when it approaches the next step in its evolution. But if we wait for our political system to do this we are in for a nasty surprise. AI could most likely regulate itself better than a gaggle of self-interested careerist politicians.

By: TS O’Rourke

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