The development of autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and digital personal assistants is just a sample of what Artificial Intelligence (AI) can bring to society in the coming decades.
The possibilities in this field are so vast that some researchers and scientists have shown concern about the risks of this technological revolution.
From ‘Terminator’ to ‘Blade Runner through ‘2001: A Space Odyssey, cinema, comics, and literature have also marked the collective imagination with the ethical and practical challenges that AI will present to society.
But first of all, it is important to explain that although science fiction works often portray AI as robots with human characteristics, this term covers a broader spectrum of functions, ranging from simple Google search algorithms to autonomous devices.
On the one hand, we find the so-called weak (or narrow) AI designed to perform specific tasks such as facial recognition or playing chess. A Yale University study has recently shown that artificial intelligence can improve people’s lives even in its simplest versions.
Through an experiment with online gamers, experts in social interactions proved that the inclusion of AI not only helps the overall performance of human players but is especially useful when tasks become more difficult.
What Dangers Can AI Present?
The idea of general (or strong) AI is more ambitious, which raises big questions. In theory, a strong AI could outperform humans in almost all cognitive tasks. Recently personalities such as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Gates have publicly expressed their concern, warning about the possible risks posed by AI.
Most researchers agree that a superintelligent AI is unlikely to exhibit human emotions like love or hate. Therefore there is no reason to expect it to become intentionally evil.
The concern for advanced AI is not about evil but competition. A super-intelligent artificial intelligence will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals. If those goals are not aligned with ours or get out of the control of their creators, a serious problem will arise.
The Importance of Cybersecurity
If the creation of superior intelligence that could also improve itself succeeds, it isn’t easy to foresee the final result. Since AI has the potential to be smarter than any human, there would be no sure way to predict how it will behave. The technical guides of the past could not serve as a reference since nothing has ever been created that can deceive us.
“The appearance of a powerful AI can be the best or the worst thing that can happen to humanity. We still don’t know”, Stephen Hawking summarized at a conference in Cambridge a few months ago.
On the other hand, in the shorter term, the goal of controlling the impact of AI on society is already driving research in areas ranging from the economy or legislation to technology and cybersecurity.
The more tasks that depend on autonomous devices, the greater the fear of them being hacked. Suppose the thought of losing control of a smartphone or laptop is unsettling. In that case, it’s nothing compared to a scenario where a hacker could tamper with medical devices, passenger vehicles, or weapons systems.