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The technologies behind artificial intelligence and machine learning keep getting better. From the first AI checkers and chess programs written in 1951 at the University of Manchester to OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard AI, the history and evolution of artificial intelligence is long and full of breakthroughs.
Currently, AI is being used for many purposes across various industries. In the transportation industry, AI is now used in self-driving cars, auto-pilot software for autonomous flying, and software used to help drivers find the most efficient routes to avoid traffic and save time and fuel.
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In the healthcare industry, AI is now used by doctors to help keep track of symptoms and identify potential diagnoses and used by pharmaceutical scientists to design new drug therapies.
These mentioned uses of AI, and many others not mentioned, are positive uses of artificial intelligence that are helping to advance medicine, technology, science, and human progress. AI can truly be a positive force in society to be used for the greater good.
However, what about the downsides of AI? Let us take a look at some of the most alarming downsides of AI advancement and how they could affect society as a whole.
Plagiarism is defined as the act of using someone else’s work or ideas without giving proper credit to the original author. But now Universities and high schools across the US are scrambling to redefine plagiarism in the wake of the emergence of AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard.
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More students have been using AI-powered applications like ChatGPT and Google Bard to conduct research for their academic papers, and often, students can simply use these AI applications to generate long-form content that could easily be copied and pasted into their papers.
It is not only the world of academics that is affected by the introduction of ChatGPT and Google Bard. In digital marketing, editors are also dealing with the emergence of these AI applications and how they can be used by content writers and copywriters to generate AI-produced content.
Also, does anyone know how the Google search algorithm will treat AI-generated content when it evaluates content and ranks it for the SERP?
Whether it is for academic purposes or commercial content creation, the jury is still out on how we should treat AI-generated content. For now, there are many AI detection programs that can be used to identify the likelihood of an author using ChatGPT or other AI-powered applications to produce written content.
However, this is simply a short-term way to identify AI-generated content and it does not answer the larger questions of whether AI-generated content should be used in academia and commercial content.
The cybersecurity industry is a constantly changing landscape where cybercriminals consistently develop new ways to infiltrate organizations and IT professionals continuously develop new tools to protect digital assets.
Cybercriminals have consistently used tactics like social engineering to implement ransomware and malware attacks to steal sensitive data and take down entire systems in exchange for a cash or crypto payout.
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As artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly important role in cybersecurity to better detect threats and protect digital assets, cybercriminals are also using AI to make more sophisticated attacks that are harder to detect and that can more easily trick people into opening malicious emails, clicking malicious links, and installing malicious files.
Another downside of AI is the amount of energy it requires and the significant environmental impact that this level of energy consumption can have on the planet. A study conducted in 2019 found that AI developed through deep learning in natural language processing requires an incredible amount of fuel to run the hardware needed to train the AI.
Experts from the study estimated that training a single AI model using deep learning in NLP can produce approximately 300,000 kg of CO2 emissions. To put that figure into perspective, the amount of CO2 emissions created from training one AI model is the equivalent of flying a commercial airliner round trip from NYC to Beijing 125 times.
One of the biggest downsides of AI advancement is the number of jobs that are most likely going to be replaced by AI and robotics. It is really difficult for economists to put an exact number on the number of workers who will be affected by the introduction of AI into their industries, however, some experts predict that by 2030, somewhere between 75 million and 375 million workers could be required to switch jobs and learn new skills.
The full scale of how AI displacement will affect the world economy is hard to imagine. For example, many experts predict that AI will disproportionately take over many of the unskilled jobs in the service sector as well as low-skilled jobs in administration and logistical services.
Although many of the same experts predict that AI will create more jobs than it replaces, the danger lies in the fact that the large majority of workers who are replaced may lack the skills and education necessary to obtain the new jobs that AI creates.
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This problem could lead to further income inequality, social unrest, and political turmoil if not properly addressed. This is where the government is going to need to provide educational programs and training to the displaced workforce and even introduce a universal basic income to help ease the transition to the new AI-centric economy. Additionally, this economic transition, and the extent to which governments are able to provide the necessary training and resources to their affected populations, is going to look a lot different from country to country.
One last important point to consider is that many experts also see some post-graduate and highly-skilled workers being largely displaced by AI as well. Specifically, the accounting and law industries could face a massive shake-up as well. Much of the work that accountants and lawyers do requires reviewing and understanding large amounts of data and information. AI is much more efficient and accurate than humans when it comes to this type of work and much of this time-intensive work previously done by accountants and lawyers will be handed off to AI software.
Overall, although it is true that the introduction of AI and robotics will lead to massive job losses in many industries, AI is not here to replace us. Instead, it will require a coordinated effort between the private sector and government to make sure that the displaced workforce is given the training and resources necessary to help them adapt and be active participants in the new economy.
We are already starting to see how the use of artificial intelligence is being used by the Chinese government to surveil its citizens. AI and facial recognition programs are being used to track the movements, activities, relationships, and political views of individuals. Individuals are then given a social credit score based on these data points harvested by AI and facial recognition programs, and if their score gets too low, it could prevent them from participating in certain aspects of society like obtaining employment, renting an apartment, or even taking public transportation.
Although to many in the west, this sounds like a dystopian hellscape that would never happen where democracy has a foothold, it already has. US police departments across the country are using AI to embrace predictive policing algorithms to anticipate when and where crimes will occur. Also, on some level, AI is already being used in the west to collect information about individuals to identify people who may be at higher risk of committing crimes.
Either way, AI is most likely going to be used by law enforcement and government agencies in the US, however, to what extent is yet to be determined. The next five to ten years will be instrumental in writing the laws that govern how exactly AI is used by law enforcement and government agencies in accordance with the US Constitution.
The media tends to focus on all the positive aspects of artificial intelligence and the benefits it can bring to the world, seldom do we take a deep look at the potential negative consequences that AI poses such as with the above examples. As a society, figuring out solutions on how to rein in AI in these areas while simultaneously making use of its benefits will be crucial.
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed — among other intriguing things — to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.