Artificial intelligence: Real challenges

Like World Wars destroying lives in earlier centuries, now AI and boundless application over it can mar lives again. The quest for economic development may be profoundly derailed

Everywhere, development is the first need of the people. As development is not always an exclusively reserved responsibility of any single component of nation, integrated efforts from all stakeholders are necessary. From savage to agrarian ages too, development had an appreciative pace. Following Greek civilization about 1000 BC, subsequent Roman, Hwang-Ho, Mesopotamia and Indus valley civilizations had some spectacular development initiations. Water mill, geometry, steam engine were some of them. But development in the last 100 years was so miraculous that it reconfigured human lives to the height of never imagined ease and comfort.

Authoring a book ‘Simulacra and Simulation’, Jean Baudrillard argues that imagination is hyper-reality. Various ancient mythological books too imagined airbus, telephone, ship and many of modern days’ advancement. Once, modern science materialized human lives began experiencing a sea of changes. As unique inventions at that time, Graham made a telephone in 1876, radio by Marconi in 1901, television by Baird in 1925 and computer by Eckert and Mauchly in 1938. Subsequently, ATM, Internet, rocket, genetic-engineering, washing machine, electric bulb, airbus, ship, cable car and others are now available. Humans’ efficiency and unique talents made all these developments possible.

On the top, lately, the wave of artificial intelligence (AI) has commanded mammoth popularity. Human sense enabled robots to work like human minds. Writer of ‘The Complete Problem Solver’, John Hayes, believes AI will be the divine pill for all the problems. Lately self–regulated vehicles, weapons, agrarian equipment, and machines are in use. Fukoku Life, an insurance company in Japan, has replaced human resources with robots.

A robot called Pari at SBI bank, Darbarmarga branch acts like a receptionist. Soon, robots are likely to largely replace humans in many functions and ensure the robot revolution. Among robot companies, Android Love Dolls are said to be endeavoring on making robots that can walk, talk, understand human sense and emotion. Such success and implications of AI sounds breathtaking.  But AI-induced real challenges will be beyond the capacity to bear. AI is likely to ruthlessly plunge people into pools of vast challenges. In Global Catastrophic Risk (2008) Nick Bosterm counts AI as fatal as environmental degradation, terrorism, starvation, drug addiction, cold and civil wars and so on of these days. Marvin Minsky’s The Society of Mind too argues the same.

AI, at the optimum of uses, severely damages the employment sector. Even till date, many people have missed jobs because of software and machines while marching to machined-based economy from the muscle-based forms like argued by Courtland Bovi, an author on business communication.  Intercom system on phone replaces two receptionists at a time whereas the tally software replaces three accountants. Now four to five people can smoothly operate a bank branch instead of plus dozens needed a decade ago. Once machines are made with better intelligence, the employment situation will further deteriorate.

The report titled ‘Accountancy for PW’ estimates AI will substitute 38 per cent jobs in America, 35 per cent in Germany, 30 per cent in UK and 21 per cent in Japan respectively till 2030. From 56 in transportation, 46 in manufacturing and 9 per cent jobs in education sectors respectively will be substituted.

Following the employment crisis, people lose economic status. Financial crunch frustrates people. People go about looting, murdering, smuggling and other criminal acts for their livelihood. Selling properties and migrating to cheaper countries for easy life will become rife. Trans-border crimes will become common.

As everything becomes mechanic, demand for electricity will jump up approximately 40 times, leading to severe energy crisis. In the aftermath of frustration, people might detach from social and family responsibilities. Lethargy, family disintegration, decline in birth-rate, oversized expansion of negative mentality are highly possible. It might breach the pace of prosperity.

People can’t have jobs plus 15 hours a week off that can’t afford minimal subsistence too. Owing to excessive undercut on people’s consumption capacity, producers lose and companies turn bankrupt. Excessive uses of machines seriously plunder security concerns of countries and key information may be stolen. Past episodes of cyber-attack are burning examples. Right to secrecy shall be violated.

Currently, Google undergoes 40 thousand searches per second. To top it all off the optimal level of AI encumbers the Internet million times more; and perhaps the internet may cease to function. Issues like human rationality, relativism of truth, doctrine of necessity can never be well analyzed by machinery calculation, which is more robotic and based on the given command.

Like World Wars destroying lives in earlier centuries, now AI and boundless application over it can mar lives again. The quest for economic development may be profoundly derailed. Though AI is the epitome of much touted advancement now, it may create problems ahead.  The first and big impact will be on the economy of people further generating havoc in many aspects.

Dahal is Associate Professor, Kathmandu School of Law