This blog was first published on Forum for the Future on 23 Oct 2017.
The last weeks have been exciting for the tech catalyst team, with one common theme coming up in almost every recent conversation around emergent tech – the impact of Artificial Intelligence on society.
On the 4th of October I spoke at an event called “Breakout: Ethical codes for the digital age”, where here again the impact of A.I. on society was central to the conversation.
I presented two future scenarios that emergent technologies could lead us to; one future whereby technology is applied to enhance society and the environment; and another future where technology is applied in negative ways leading to a future – which certainly I don’t want to live in.
Today we are seeing indications that both scenarios are possible, and of course it is not black and white, but I wanted to deliver a clear message through the demonstration of the two scenarios: that we have the choice of where we want technology to lead, and we have already begun to make these choices.
“It was not the machine, but what one did with the machine, that was its meaning or message.” Marshall McLuhan
Artificial intelligence could create huge opportunities for society, and we have spotted some signals of change pointing towards a positive future for tech…
Drones that monitor emissions of factories and provide automated web reports with data visualization, holding businesses to account more rigorously.
- Deep sea robots that monitor the physical and biological background of oceans, forecasting it’s potential for food production and carbon capture. [ SIGNAL: Scientists monitor health of Indian Ocean with bio-robotic technology // spotted by Anna Simpson // written by Michael Zahn ]
AI creating resource efficiencies for data centres.
But we can also see signals of change of a negative future...
Weapon-makers are working on an automated gun system that uses artificial intelligence to make "shoot or no shoot" decisions.
A recent study from Stanford University found that a computer algorithm could correctly identify the sexuality of a person through face recognition. This sparked a debate of whether this kind of software violates peoples’ privacy.
It has been confirmed by the White House that Facebook and Twitter influenced the election results by utilising echo chambers and fake news to their advantage.
Abundant Robotics in California has built an automated apple picker which gives farming efficiency, but at the cost of job losses for low skilled workers. [ SIGNAL: Apple-picking robot prepares to compete for farm jobs // spotted by Alisha Bhagat ]
A software that predicts the defendant’s likelihood of reoffending has already been used by some judges to determine whether an inmate is granted parole or not. This software has been criticised as it may apply additional biases to these cases and lets technology decide the destiny of a person. [ SIGNAL: Sent to prison by a software program’s secret algorithms // spotted by Jacob Park ]
There are (legitimate) fears that AI will lead to mass unemployment, as low-skilled job wages drop towards zero, creating an even larger societal gap and bigger inequalities. PWC estimated that 30% of UK jobs are at high risk of being eliminated by AI by 2030.
The question is what future do we want to scale up? And how are we going to do it?
What other signals have you seen on how A.I. is changing the way we live whether for better or worse? Tell us in the comments below.
For more about how algorithms stabilize the current systems, what the key answers to unleash A.I. for positive change are, and how to use systems thinking to channel A.I. into the right direction, read the full blog here.
If you think your business could benefit from a technology impact session, contact Michaela Rose.