The Implications of Artificial Intelligence

Aritificial intelligence, more knowingly referred to as AI, used to be something that was only dreamt of in movie plots and novels. When I think of AI, the Will Smith movie ‘I, Robot’ is weirdly what comes to mind, but it’s probably different for everybody. Artificial intelligence used to only be seen in movies, like ‘Ex Machina,’ and in TV shows, like ‘Westworld’. But recently, there have been technological developments that have allowed for AI to shift from fiction to reality. A mainstream example of this is self-driving cars, as we’ve seen with Google Maps and with Tesla

But what are the implications of advancements in artificial intelligence?

Recently, at the World Government Summit in Dubai, Elon Musk made this statement: "One of the most troubling questions is artificial intelligence. I don’t mean narrow A.I. — deep artificial intelligence, where you can have AI which is much smarter than the smartest human on earth. This is a dangerous situation.” For those of you that don’t know Elon Musk, he is the Founder and CEO of SpaceX, which basically works to send satellites and humans into space. He is also known as the CEO of Tesla Motors, which is where things get tricky. Why would someone who is the CEO of a company that works towards advancements in technology and auto piloted cars warn against artificial intelligence?

Well, for one, advancement in artificial intelligence may lead to the dissolution of jobs in various industries. But this has been happening since the beginning of time, hasn’t it? There is somehow always a better, more efficient way to perform a task. We saw it during the Industrial Revolution when factories and machinery became the norm, when airplanes took the place of boats and trains, when cars replaced horses’ and buggies, when e-mail replaced air mail, and the list goes on and on. There is always going to be a cheaper, more efficient way of getting things done.

Elon Musk says that “there will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better” and that “the harder challenge is how do people then have meaning — because a lot of people derive their meaning from their employment.” He brings up the idea that “if you are not needed, if there is not a need for your labor…what’s the meaning?” And this is a hard reality to face. We’re trained our whole lives to prepare for our future, which typically involves working in order to provide for ourselves. So what are we going to do if the goal that we work towards from childhood suddenly disappears?

There are definitely a lot of unanswered questions regarding AI, and I think that’s the point that Elon Musk is trying to make. While it’s a good thing to advance technology to a point where it will help with everyday tasks and make our lives easier, it’s a bad thing if it advances to the point where it's even smarter than the smartest human being.

It's probably true that advancements in AI aren’t going to progress to the point that they replace all jobs within the next 10 or 20 years. But the next 50? The next 100? Maybe. And while this is all hypothetical right now, the technology and the work has already begun. Just within the last 100 years, humans have made huge strides in technology that have completed changed the world to be what we experience today, so I can only imagine what the world will be like 100 years from now. 

Image Credits