If we are not careful, artificial intelligence might be our last improvement

Jana Boňková was awarded 2nd place in Category C of the Leaf Academy’s English Essay Competition.

Jana BoňkováJana Boňková (Source: Courtesy of LEAF Academy)

This essay was chosen as one of the best essays in its category in the English Essay Competition organised by LEAF Academy, an international boarding high school in Bratislava. The competition was open to all Slovak students from primary and secondary schools who are passionate about writing in the English language. The Slovak Spectator has not edited the essays as participants were awarded partly on their English-language skills.

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Artificial intelligence is generally understood as the ability of a digital computer to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. It was in the 1950s when McCarthy created the term “Artificial Intelligence”, which he defined as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. Artificial intelligence was mainly popularized by famous personalities like Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. In 1950s, the father of artificial intelligence, Turing, said: „It seems probable that once the machine thinking method has started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers (…). They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control”. A few years later, it is stressed that as far as artificial intelligence is concerned, we should be aware of unintended consequences.

First of all, it cannot be denied that accepting artificial intelligence into our lives will, to a certain extent, influence our existence in a positive way. It´s estimated that because of artificial intelligence, 97 million new jobs in the future will be created. Computers and computer-controlled robots will make our life simpler, more advanced and it will reduce drudgery involved in many work tasks. Human beings are able to make a machine with such a unique strength that a human can never beat. It definitely is fascinating, isn’t it? Furthermore, artificial intelligence will do risk-taking and repetitive jobs in place of human with high accuracy. Thanks to its faster decision making, faster working and completing tasks more rapidly compared to human, it will improve our work place. It has the ability to handle the information better than humans, so it will probably reduce errors and defects. In addition, as a result of its availability, intelligent machines will ensure better costumer experience. Computers do not need to take a break, and do not get tired after 8 hours, which means that customers will have the chance to ask for help at any time.

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On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that artificial intelligence has some drawbacks and limitations, too. Although it is true that it will provide a lot of new job opportunities, according to a recent World Economic Forum report, artificial intelligence could replace 85 million jobs globally by 2025. Another problem is that there are a lot of well-known cases where devices with artificial intelligence proceeded with unwanted behaviour. For example, Tay was Microsoft Corporation’s artificial intelligence chatbot that was designed to learn and interact with people on its own was taken down when it started hitting on topics involving rape, domestic violence, and Nazism. Yes, machines are wise, but they are emotionless and they do not have any moral values. Moreover, its abilities and knowledge are limited to its training data and it has no original creativity, which means it cannot improve with experience. It cannot currently handle highly intelligent tasks and in addition, it can do things but cannot explain them. So, in my opinion, it is not very probable that artificial intelligence would take over the world one day. Yet, there will always be a chance and people will still be frightened by the thought of robots living by our side, seeing them as a danger to human survival. Elon Musk, an entrepreneur and businessman, says we all should be alarmed and “artificial intelligence could be an existential threat”.

Having said that, I am convinced that we should enjoy the benefits of AI and still be prepared to take action before it is too late and something dangerous goes on. Indisputably, artificial intelligence is a powerful tool. In 2017 popular physicist Stephen Hawking warned us about the negative impacts of artificial intelligence: “Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilisation. Or the worst. So, we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI or ignored by it and side lined, or conceivably destroyed by it”. Even genius could not predict the future of the artificial intelligence playing a significant role in our world.

To sum up, if we are not careful, artificial intelligence might be our last improvement. Technology is a double-edged sword and even though it has a lot of advantages, we cannot ignore the possible threats. Not only can artificial intelligence hurt the world, but it can destroy it.

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