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Artifical Intelligence: Foe or Friend?

It is almost a given that with each passing day and the advancement of science and technology, it will no longer be 'business as usual' in several aspects of our lives. The floppy discs, CD-ROMs and DVDs of yesteryear have been replaced by the flash drives and SD cards of today, which themselves will inevitably be replaced by the even 'newer' technology of tomorrow.

Likewise, the same principles of transition can be applied to some jobs and business functions. Once prominent positions in the organizational chart of businesses and even government offices have been made redundant, partly as a result of the introduction of modern technology such as computers and AI (Artificial Intelligence) into the workplace.

Computers are perhaps more familiar to most, if not many of us, when compared to Artificial Intelligence.

It therefore begs the question, should we be wary of AI, or should it be a welcome 'new wave' of progressive development?

According to, AI is defined as, "the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings". Similarly multinational technology manufacturer, IBM (also known as 'The Big Blue'), states on its website that AI, "leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind." Simply put, AI means using man-made inventions to perform the actions and tasks that people would normally do.

It doesn't have to be as dramatic as robots taking over the world! AI already exists around us, to some degree. Take for example ABM machines, facial-recognition technology, and Amazon Alexa, which is a virtual assistant technology that can perform virtually any task that 'she' is asked. In each of the three cited examples above, people once performed these functions.

In previous times, it would have been the norm to have to go directly into a financial institution and interact face-to-face with a Customer Service Representative (CSR), in order to access our funds. Nowadays, once we have an electronic debit card, we don't necessarily have to endure long lines. Instead, we interact with the machine, punch in our requested amount to withdraw, and get our money, and a receipt if we desire.

Likewise, at airports and other ports of call, the travelling public would have ordinarily had to be physically scrutinized by an airport official (Immigration), in order to verify our identity. Nowadays, a machine basically scans our fingerprints, the pupils of our eyes and facial structure, in addition to scanning our machine-readable passport to authenticate our claims, and ideally, limit our waiting-cum-processing times while in the immigration lines.

Then of course, we have Alexa. More formally known as the Amazon Echo, 'she' can perform a variety of tasks including: (i) telling the time, setting an alarm, creating a stopwatch function; (ii) talking about the day's weather; (iii) playing the music of your choice; (iv) play games, highlight the day's news and even shop for you as often as possible, without having the corresponding need to decompress, recharge or otherwise take a break from performing the day's tasks.

It therefore seems that AI is quite the boon to our modern world. Or is it really? Might it just be a bane instead?

One of the more glaring reasons against the use of AI, is the casualty to humans- by way of job replacement, job reduction and ultimate job obsoletion. Secondly, AI doesn't appear to possess the uniqueness of human creativity or interaction, replete with sympathy and empathy. AI is essentially dispassionate, robotic service (although it appears that AI proponents are assiduously working to improve in this area!).

There is also the threat of [increased] social surveillance of activities and movements-and even political views- by government officials, and otherwise those in authority. Ethical claims have also been leveraged against the increased use of AI. Finally, there is also the tremendous cost of implementation and maintenance of AI, which might serve to further widen existing socio-economic gaps.

We are still arguably in the early days of AI use. Therefore, much debate remains to be seen about its perceived advantages and disadvantages to our holistic societal development.

AI: A good servant; a terrible master.


LinkedIn Local Caribbean, Artificial Intelligence, humans, technology, society

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