The dangers of Artificial Intelligence

In the beginning of May 2023, Geoffrey Hinton, often portrayed as the godfather of artificial intelligence (AI), quit his job and warned about the growing development in that technology.

May 26, 2023

(Vecteezy/Veronica Nerissa)

By Fr Sean McDonagh
In the beginning of May 2023, Geoffrey Hinton, often portrayed as the godfather of artificial intelligence (AI), quit his job and warned about the growing development in that technology. His pioneering work and research on neural networks and deep learning paved the way for the current systems such as ChatGPT. In artificial intelligence, neural networks are systems that are like those found in the human brain, both in the way they learn and process information. This allows AI to learn from experience in the same way as a human being would. This is called deep learning.

In 2021, I wrote a book, Robots, Ethics, and the Future of Jobs. And I pointed out how powerful AI was in 2017. It recognises patterns and finds relationships in data that are so complex that no individual human being or group of human beings would be able to see these connections. In January 2017, Libratus, an AI programme designed to play poker, was entered in a 20-day-long tournament against four of the best pokers players in the world. Libratus won. The algorithms that powered Libratus were designed to have applications beyond playing cards.

As I point out in the book, AI is being used in agriculture, finance, banking, insurance, healthcare, education, policing, retail, construction trade, military strategies and in the care of young people and the elderly. Many teachers are aware that some students are using AI to write their term papers and thesis.

In his book, Why the Future is Workless, Tim Dunlop predicts that these technologies will replace people in the workforce, and lead to significant levels of unemployment and impoverishment for many people. Geoffrey Hinton believes these technologies can do wonderful things, but he is also aware that there is need for regulation. According to him, it is essential that the world invests urgently in AI safety control. He is not the only one calling for regulations. In March 2023, an open letter co-signed by many people in the AI field — including the tech billionaire Elon Musk — called for a pause on all developments more advanced than the current version of the AI chatbot. In the current world this would not be an easy thing to achieve. Even if everybody in the United States stopped working to improve AI, China and India could develop their tech industry during this time.

Many people believe that these new technologies will push many people back into the situation which prevailed during the early part of the 19th century when there were no jobs available for people. Those formulating regulations must include, not just people who understand AI technologies, but sociologists and philosophers.

The reason that there has been no regulations to date is that large tech corporations have huge influence on politicians in many countries across the globe. Politicians must challenge the giant companies on several issues, especially workers’ rights and users’ rights.

Many of these corporations are monopolies that should be broken up. Scientists for Global Responsibility, a campaigning group comprising of scientists and engineers, surveyed its 750 members about the effects that AI would have on their future. Almost all their members felt that AI would entrench and deepen inequality in society, as more and more power and benefits would flow to the large digital corporations rather than to the ordinary citizen.

The Irish Times journalist Karlin Lillington asks, “how much longer do we allow such monolithic speech orbiters — which they unquestionably are — to operate without limitation or responsibility?” --ICN

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