When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), what first comes to your mind? Is it the buzz around ChatGPT and New Bing? Or the robot characters in some science fiction films? Crawford (2021) argued that AI is neither artificial nor intelligent, it possesses both embodied and material properties, derived from natural resources, fuel, human labor, infrastructures, logistics, histories, and classifications, which needed computationally intensive training with large datasets or predefined rules and rewards. In just a few decades, from recommendation algorithms to automated systems, the speed of AI advancement has significantly impacted human society. Human progress moves quicker and quicker as time goes on because more advanced societies have the ability to progress at a faster rate than less advanced societies (Urban, 2017). As futurist Kurzweil (2006, as cited in Urban, 2017) predicted, human progress in the 21st century will be 1,000 times greater than that of the 20th century. While enjoying the convenience, we are also discovering the potential threats of AI. This blog will discuss the opportunities and challenges in the age of AI, starting with real-world cases.
A double-edged sword
- Bright sides
The development of AI presents a significant opportunity for the enhancement of productivity, as it can undertake tedious production work tirelessly and without complaint. Let’s imagine how much workforce is needed in a restaurant serving thousands of people at the same time and continuing 24 hours a day. At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the chefs and service staff of the Olympic Village restaurant were all robots, achieving full intelligence. The catering equipment is capable of operating around the clock, ensuring automation of the entire process from ordering, preparation, and serving, which can serve thousands of people simultaneously. And how much manual labor is required to process several hundred thousand orders without interruption? There is no doubt that AI has amazing advantages in processing massive amounts of data. The unmanned warehouse at JD.com can handle up to 200,000 orders per day, realizing fully intelligent logistics from warehousing to sorting. It also uses intelligent algorithms to accurately recommend packaging materials to achieve the best utilization rate (LAI, 2018). No matter the heavy work or complicated calculations, AI can easily cope with them.
Have you ever enjoyed the value that AI technologies bring to health detection? Many people around me said that smart bracelets like the Apple Watch played a big role. It alerts them that their heart rate is abnormal, or their blood oxygen saturation is low, so they have to seek medical attention in time. Besides, these bracelets use AI algorithms to analyze the user’s daily health data to develop a suitable health plan. Gates (2023) considered that, in healthcare, despite potential errors, AI will provide significant benefits through more efficient tools for predicting side effects and determining dosing levels. This includes saving time, increasing efficiency, helping with medical breakthroughs, etc., and AI technologies have the potential to innovate healthcare systems in poor countries where access to medical care is limited (Gates, 2023). In short, the development of AI can bring improvements in healthcare, particularly in the following eight areas (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2017):
- AI and medical IoT have the potential to help people maintain their health independently or with less reliance on doctors.
- Improve the accuracy of disease detection for better monitoring and treating diseases in the early stages.
- AI algorithms analyze a wide range of health data to make accurate diagnoses.
- Pattern recognition to predict and assess the risk of disease.
- Help doctors formulate and plan treatment goals.
- Reduce the need for people to be hospitalized and in nursing homes.
- Reduce the time and cost of bringing new drugs to market by simplifying the drug discovery and repurposing process.
- Intelligent training provides patients with a full range of medical services and improves medical efficiency.
- Threats and risks
I am a job seeker who wants to find a suitable job and learn some professional skills through new media platforms. I chatted very well with a salesperson and told him some of my personal information. After gaining my trust, he began to ask me to pay for service fees, training fees, etc. This fake account quietly disappeared after I made the payment….It often happens around us, and it seems to have become easier to execute through AI.
Please look at these faces closely; they look kind and like someone close to us. However, the fact is that they are all synthesized by AI, and even their background information is fabricated. In 2022, more than 1,000 fake accounts on the LinkedIn platform were exposed. There is only one purpose for them to be generated in large quantities, and that is to start a widespread sales business for the companies behind them. Once they find interested customers, they will be transferred to real sales (Bond, 2022). The AI-generated messages illustrate how technology used to spread misinformation and harassment online has entered the corporate world (Bond, 2022). They pose threats to real society, including harassment, the spread of false information, and even information leakage. The EU GDPR is one prominent example, it required that companies to seek the personal data of users must allow them to give informed content that can be withdrawn, and it imposed strong penalties for companies that fail to meet GDPR provisions and requirements related to the processing of personal data of individuals (Flew, 2021).
With the development of artificial intelligence, more and more people are beginning to show their concern. Workers often worry about whether their jobs will be replaced. Many believe that while complete job replacement by AI is unlikely, the partial replacement will be an inevitable outcome. According to Wikipedia Contributors (2023), the use of AI in publishing has raised concerns about the loss of jobs for journalists. In 2020, Microsoft announced that a number of its MSN contract journalists would be replaced by robot journalism (Wikipedia Contributors, 2023). CEO of Openai Sam Altman (2021) penned the article, ”Moore’s Law of Everything”. He clearly understood that many jobs would be quickly replaced by AI—— ”Software that can think and learn will do more and more of the work that people now do. Even more, power will shift from labor to capital. If the public policy does not adapt accordingly, most people will end up worse off than they are today“ (Altman, 2021).
Is there any worse outcome that could be out of control or lead to destruction? This brings us to AGI (artificial general intelligence), an intimidating term. This means that AI will establish its own goals, and it will be able to do everything that the human brain can do, and even surpass it (Gates, 2023). In a survey of AI experts in 2022, a small number of experts believe that this level of technology will never be developed, with half giving a date before 2061 and 90% considering a date within the next century can be the reality (Roser, 2023). Although AGI does not yet exist, we cannot know whether it will conflict with humans or how far into the future it will happen. One thing is for sure: it is an urgent issue that requires thought and intervention.
The futuristic AI governance
The governance policies for AI have emerged in an endless stream in recent years (only some of them are shown below in chronological order):
In 2019, the Australian Human Rights Commission and World Economic Forum (2019) introduced the “Artificial Intelligence: governance and leadership whitepaper”, which explored the governance and leadership model for AI in Australia. Starting with the hypothesis that Australia needs to match the rising levels of innovation in AI technologies with innovation in AI governance, and focusing on the practical challenge of exploring what that might look like (Australian Human Rights Commission and World Economic Forum, 2019).
In 2020, as Litvinet (2020) summarizes, the European Commission published the “White Paper on Artificial Intelligence: A European Approach to Excellence and Trust”, which aims to reach the goal of serving all Europeans by achieving scientific breakthroughs, preserving the EU’s technological leadership, and ensuring that new technologies improve people’s lives, based on respect for human rights. It underlines the importance of improving digital literacy for all citizens and raising awareness of the issues related to data privacy, transparency, the definition of AI, data governance, responsibility, trust, and the dual use of technologies (Litvinets, 2020).
In 2022, the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (2022) released the “White Paper on Artificial Intelligence”, which comprehensively reviewed the latest trends in global artificial intelligence in policy, technology, application, and governance since 2021. Its main objective is to analyze the new development situation that AI is facing and the new stage. It is dedicated to comprehensively sorting out the current AI development situation, providing a reference for all sectors, and collaboratively promoting the sustainable and healthy development of AI (China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, 2022).
In 2023, the UK government (2023) published a white paper on AI, outlining five principles for AI governance such as ChatGPT: safety, transparency, fairness, accountability, and contestability. And it proposes new ways to regulate AI to build public trust in cutting-edge technologies and make it easier for companies to innovate, grow, and create jobs (GOV.UK, 2023).
In addition, the IISD SDG Knowledge Hub (2023) released an announcement that the AI for Good Global Summit will be convened in July 2023 to identify practical applications of AI that accelerate sustainable development goals. The summit offers an opportunity for innovators and decision-makers from the public and private sectors to come together and expand AI solutions globally, with a focus on generating AI for Good solutions that can be implemented in the short term. Priorities include networking, user experience, and partnerships to stimulate collaboration and ensure trustworthy, secure, and inclusive development of AI technology with equitable access to its benefits (IISD SDG Knowledge Hub, 2023).
Opportunity and challenge coexist
What can AI not do yet? What do we need to do?
WIRED (2023) published a video about AI expert Gary Marcus answering some online questions about artificial intelligence. One of the issues is the main difference between human infants, primates, and AI learning styles. He explained that human infants and primates are learning about the structure of the world and how objects and humans interact; while AI is currently just storing examples and looking for patterns, it will not build what cognitive psychologists call the world model. Babies are like little scientists trying to figure out how things work and how things change over time, whereas AI is currently mostly about learning correlations without a causal understanding of the world (WIRED, 2023). According to Bergstein (2020), AI’s current abilities fall short of higher-level causal thinking, which involves reasoning and posing hypothetical questions about events, such as determining the cause of a patient’s death in a clinical trial or identifying policy changes to improve school test scores.
Therefore, it is imperative for us to recognize the value and non-substitutable nature of human qualities and be aware that there are certain areas where AI cannot replace human beings, like emotional intelligence, experience, and natural language. For example, the fields of art, literature, and music require a level of empathy and personalized services that only human beings can provide. With the advancement of technology, it is important to maintain a balance between efficiency and humanity while discovering the domains that demand unique qualities from humans at the same time. As Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee (United Nations in China, 2022), UN Resident Coordinator in China, emphasized in “International Artificial Intelligence and Governance Forum”, AI has the potential to benefit people and the planet, but it also poses risks such as privacy, inequality, and job losses. Proper governance is necessary to ensure a resilient future. An international governance structure for AI is essential, as it transcends national borders and diverse contexts. “At the UN Future Summit in 2024, governments should place human rights issues at the top of the list, balancing innovation with the responsibility to protect people and the planet“ (United Nations in China, 2022).
Altman, S. (2021, March 16). Moore’s Law for Everything. Moores.samaltman.com. https://moores.samaltman.com/
Australian Human Rights Commission and World Economic Forum. (2019). Artificial Intelligence: governance and leadership whitepaper (2019). Humanrights.gov.au. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/publications/artificial-intelligence-governance-and-leadership
Bergstein, B. (2020, February 19). What AI still can’t do. MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/02/19/868178/what-ai-still-cant-do/
Bond, S. (2022, March 27). That smiling LinkedIn profile face might be a computer-generated fake. NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2022/03/27/1088140809/fake-linkedin-profiles
China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. (2022). 中国信通院–科研能力–权威发布–白皮书. Www.caict.ac.cn. http://www.caict.ac.cn/kxyj/qwfb/bps/202204/t20220412_399752.htm
Crawford, K. (2021). Introduction. In The Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence. Yale University Press.
Flew, T. (2021). Platform Regulation and Governance. In Regulating Platforms. Polity Press.
Gates, B. (2023, March 21). The Age of AI has begun. Gatesnotes.com. https://www.gatesnotes.com/The-Age-of-AI-Has-Begun
GOV.UK. (2023, March 29). UK unveils world leading approach to innovation in first artificial intelligence white paper to turbocharge growth. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-unveils-world-leading-approach-to-innovation-in-first-artificial-intelligence-white-paper-to-turbocharge-growth
IISD SDG Knowledge Hub. (2023). Event: AI For Good Global Summit 2023 | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD. Sdg.iisd.org. https://sdg.iisd.org/events/ai-for-good-global-summit-2023/
LAI, S. (2018, May 25). JD.com Opens Doors to Unmanned Warehouse for First Time. Www.yicaiglobal.com. https://www.yicaiglobal.com/news/jdcom-opens-doors-to-unmanned-warehouse-for-first-time
Litvinets, V. (2020, June 19). A Summary of The European Commission White Paper on Artificial Intelligence — a European approach…. Medium. https://medium.com/@litvinets/a-summary-of-the-european-commission-white-paper-on-artificial-intelligence-a-european-approach-d386c4b9dce8
PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2017). No longer science fiction, AI and robotics are transforming healthcare. PwC. https://pwc.to/2weGo5v
Roser, M. (2023, February 7). AI timelines: What do experts in artificial intelligence expect for the future? Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/ai-timelines
United Nations in China. (2022, December 9). International Artificial Intelligence and Governance Forum 2022. China.un.org. https://china.un.org/en/210705-international-artificial-intelligence-and-governance-forum-2022
Urban, T. (2017, September 7). The Artificial Intelligence Revolution: Part 1 – Wait But Why. Wait but Why. https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html
Wikipedia Contributors. (2023, March 23). Automated journalism. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automated_journalism#
WIRED. (2023). A.I. Expert Answers A.I. Questions From Twitter | Tech Support | WIRED. In www.youtube.com. https://youtu.be/Puo3VkPkNZ4