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What Are the Risks of Artificial Intelligence and Can We Reduce Them?

The ultimate guide on the broader impacts of artificial intelligence on society.

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t a thing of science fiction anymore.

It’s already all around you, from Siri to the systems refining what you see on social media.

AI has made much of our lives more comfortable, but it also comes with a few risks and is still a controversial subject.

While many businesses jump at the opportunity to use it, some are hesitant because of some potential threats.

So, what exactly are the negatives of using AI?

AI Risks:

Scientists and tech experts like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned about the potential dangers of AI.

Some of these are concerns for the future, while some are relevant right now.

Let’s look at a few of the most talked-about risks of AI.

1. Privacy Invasion

You’ve probably heard some concerns over privacy in the digital age already.

As you go about your day, you interact with a variety of services and devices, generating data about yourself.

AI can gather and analyze this information to learn more about you than you may be comfortable with.

AI is excellent at drawing conclusions from seemingly unrelated data points.

That means these systems may know a lot about you without you knowing it.

2. Social Manipulation

Since AI tends to know people well, it can be effective at marketing to people.

That’s all well and good until it uses this information to manipulate them.

Without proper boundaries, AI could spread disinformation or propaganda to influence social outcomes.

Just remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company allegedly used AI to influence the presidential election.

The threat of AI-based social manipulation is already present with today’s technology.

3. Job Shortages

One of the most prevalent concerns over AI is that it might take jobs away from people.

If AI offers better performance, then wouldn’t companies prefer these systems over humans?

After all, you don’t have to pay AI a salary.

Machines can’t replace every job, at least not yet, but they can do a lot.

The rise of AI may mean job shortages for some workers.

4. Potential for Malicious Use

AI is a powerful tool, meaning it could be dangerous in the wrong hands.

We may not have a “Terminator”-style robot/human war, but what if a malicious group used AI in weaponry?

The idea of intelligent weapons is a frightening one.

Apart from weaponry, threat actors could use AI for social harm.

Misinformation campaigns and cybercrime would be far more threatening with the power of AI.

The risks of artificial intelligence according to tech billionaire Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems

(Research source: Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us [Wired Magazine])

AI Benefits:

The possibilities of AI aren’t all scary.

Just as it carries some serious risks, it also has significant potential for good.

Here are some of the ways AI can be helpful in any business.

1. Streamlined Processes

AI systems can make calculations far faster than a person can.

Companies can let AI handle basic administrative tasks that would otherwise take valuable time from busy employees.

These systems can create schedules, draw up statistics and send emails while workers focus on other tasks.

2. Improved Data Analytics

Data analysis is a central part of many modern businesses, and AI makes this process faster and more accurate.

AI can extract information from electronic health records to offer diagnoses and suggestions for patients.

Similarly, it can provide recommendations for how companies can reduce their environmental footprint.

3. Accurate Predictions

One of the most promising features of AI’s analytic ability is predictive analytics.

AI systems can predict how changes in a company will affect its profit margin.

On a more humanitarian note, they can forecast crises like disease outbreaks or natural disasters, giving people time to prepare.

4. Limitless Availability

Person-to-person customer service is usually preferable, but you can’t have humans work around the clock.

AI applications like chatbots can offer support at any time of day.

That way, consumers get the help they need without businesses needing to make employees work late into the night.

Avoiding Risks in AI Implementation

If you want to integrate AI into your business, you have to keep its risks in mind.

You shouldn’t let its potential downsides make you avoid AI at all costs, but you should proceed carefully.

Here’s how to implement AI while minimizing these pitfalls.

To control AI, you need to avoid over-implementing it.

Before you turn to these systems to solve any issues, ask if AI is necessary for that specific situation.

Regardless of whether the process requires nuanced contextual understanding or not, humans are a better choice for getting the job done.

Whenever you do turn to AI, test it out slowly before expanding its reach.

Make sure you establish restrictions, only giving your AI access to what it needs for the job at hand.

As you learn how to control these systems, you can start growing them.

Despite AI’s accuracy, you should never let it have the final say in any decision.

If AI has total power over decision-making, it could lead to harmful results.

Always use AI as a resource or adviser, but save the conclusions for humans, who have a moral code and empathy.

New technologies are rarely risk-free.

With careful implementation, individuals or companies could experience the benefits of AI while avoiding its potential dangers.

This page was last edited on July 10, 2020.