Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Benefit Humanity? – A Utopian View


As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, artificial intelligence (AI) has become a hotly debated topic. My colleague, Daniel Schieber, and I have decided to share our perspectives on the subject by writing blogs with opposing viewpoints. While some fear the potential dangers of AI, I am excited about the possibilities it brings for a brighter future. In this blog, I will explore the positive aspects of AI development and the ways in which it could revolutionize our lives for the better. While there are certainly challenges to be addressed, I believe that AI has the power to create a utopian society that benefits all of humanity. Daniel takes a more pessimistic view in his blog, but for those who are ready to embrace the potential of this exciting technology, join me as I share my optimistic vision for the future of AI.

As an enthusiastic advocate for artificial intelligence (AI), I am excited to share my perspective on the many benefits that this technology can bring society. As a bonus, at the end of this blog, I will offer a futuristic view of a world where humans and AI coexist in harmony and peace.

In recent years, AI has seen exponential growth in research and applications across various industries. so much so that it has become deeply integrated into our daily lives, often without us even realizing its presence. The reason of this ubiquity is that AI already provides a range of benefits, including increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved accuracy, enhanced decision-making, and new opportunities for innovation and job creation. We have already seen this across many enterprise verticals.

For example, in the healthcare industry, AI-powered medical imaging can lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses, reducing healthcare costs and improving patient outcomes. A study published Nature in 2020 found that using AI for breast cancer screening resulted in a 5.7% increase in cancer detection rates, with a 11% reduction in false positives. Similarly, in the finance industry, AI is used in multiple sectors, from personalized banking to trading. One area where AI holds particular promise is in detecting money laundering by enabling real-time transaction monitoring and sending higher-quality alerts to downstream anti-money-laundering investigators.

In the manufacturing industry, AI-powered predictive maintenance can reduce downtime and maintenance costs. According to a PWC study cited by Power-MI, predictive maintenance can improve uptime by 51%, reduce costs by 11%, increase equipment lifetime by 7%, and reduce risks associated with safety, health, environment and quality by 8%. Andin the agriculture industry, AI is being used to reduce herbicide and fertilizer consumption by 25-35% and increase yield by 3-4%. Additionally, AI can help adjust irrigation plans based on soil moisture monitoring saving farms up to 50% of water resources.

However, some of my favorite examples of the potential humanitarian benefits of AI are those that address critical social and environmental issues, such as: 

  • Disaster response: AI is used to help respond to natural disasters by analyzing satellite imagery and meteorological and sensor data for forecasting events, producing potential hazard maps, and identify affected areas during disasters. AI can also estimate the number of people who have been impacted, and identifying potential areas for relief efforts helping first responders make real-time decisions
  • Fighting illegal fishing: The identification of vessels potentially engaged in illegal fishing can be achieved through AI's analysis of satellite imagery. This helps authorities target enforcement efforts more effectively, reducing the impact of illegal fishing on marine ecosystems. For example, the non-profit organization Oceanmind uses AI to analyze satellite imagery and sensor data, enabling them to understand maritime human activity on the ocean and identify suspected non-compliance.
  • Early warning systems for wildfires: AI can is to analyze data from sensors and cameras to identify the early signs of a wildfire and alert authorities before the fire becomes too large to control. Companies such as Descartes Labs and Ororatech have developed AI systems that can analyze satellite imagery to identify areas that are at high risk of wildfires.
  • Environmental monitoring: Analyzing and monitoring environmental data using AI can identify potential risks to public health and the environment as highlighted by the UN Environment program. AI technologies are used for tracking air quality, monitoring, and reducing emissions as well as detecting and preventing deforestation.
  • Healthcare Accessibility: AI can be used to provide access to specialists in underserved populations. Also, with advances in robotic surgeries, more accurate diagnostics, and personalized treatments, healthcare will become more affordable and accessible to a larger population.

These are only a few examples that illustrate the vast benefits that AI can offer, not only from the economic perspective, but also how it can help us to become a more equalitarian, safe, and healthy society.

An optimistic view for a complex challenge…

Maintaining an optimistic perspective while acknowledging reality is crucial, particularly when it comes to AI technologies. To that end, let's address some of the ethical challenges we are facing. Some traditional challenges include accountabilityfairnessbiasprivacy, and timeliness. The popularity of generative models like chatGPT and Dall-e is also posing new challenges. The good news is that while it's a long and complex problem, humans can find solutions to these challenges. Let me address these challenges in more detail.

If an AI model makes a mistake, who is accountable for it? Determining accountability when an AI model makes a mistake is not a simple matter. One solution could be to establish clear lines of responsibility and accountability. This would evolve defining the roles and responsibilities of both human operators and the AI systems. For example, some companies are using "human-in-the-loop" models, where humans oversee the AI systems and take responsibility for their actions.

In the context of fairness and bias, it's worth noting that AI can perpetuate and even amplify existing biases in society. To address this issue, one solution is to design and train AI systems with fairness and diversity in mind. This includes collecting diverse data sets, using fair and unbiased algorithms, and regularly auditing AI systems to identify and correct any bias. It's essential to ensure explainability and transparency in AI systems, so access to peer-reviews is necessary, particularly for models with large algorithmic impact.

Ensuring thatAI models respect the privacy and personal data of individuals and protect against unauthorized access or misuse is critical.  AI models and systems must be designed with privacy in mind from the outset, which can include implementing privacy-preserving techniques, such as differential privacy or federated learning. These methods enable effective machine learning while safeguarding sensitive data. It is also crucial to establish clear policies and regulations around data privacy, like GDPR(EU), Digital Charter Implementation Act (Canada), CCPA (USA) or LGPD (Brazil), among others.

It's important to recognize that AI models can become outdated quickly and inconspicuously with the emergence of new data and technologies, particularly when considering timeliness. To tackle this challenge, designing AI systems that are flexible and adaptable, with the ability to learn and evolve over time, can be beneficial. Moreover, keeping an eye on data drifting and implementing robust systems that consider the entire machine learning life cycle can ensure that AI systems remain relevant and up-to-date.

Due to the increase in the use of generative models like ChatGPT, which has been widely discussed in the news lately, new ethical challenges have come to the forefront. These models can create realistic images, videos, and even text, raising concerns about fake news, identity theft, and misuse of personal information. One challenge is safety, as generative models can be used to deceive or propagate fake content. Detection technologies can be developed and deployed to identify fake content. Additionally, media literacy and critical thinking skills can be promoted to help people evaluate information sources.

Another challenge is security, as generative models can be used to generate fake credentials or other forms of fraudulent identification. To address this, secure and tamper-proof systems for identity verification can be developed, such as blockchain-based systems.

Moreover, it is essential to educate students and researchers on the ethical implications of using AI-generated content without proper attribution to prevent plagiarism. Academic institutions can develop policies and guidelines that encourage responsible use of AI-powered tools and provide training on how to cite and reference AI-generated content. AI-powered plagiarism detection tools can also be developed to help educators and researchers detect instances of AI-generated plagiarism.

Finally, it is crucial to prevent the misuse of generative models by minors by promoting responsible use of these tools and educating young people on the potential risks and ethical implications. Parents and educators can help to develop critical thinking skills and media literacy in children, so they are better able to evaluate the quality and veracity of information they encounter online. This new skill is part of our evolution, similar to how people learned to use log tables to calculate logarithms in the past, and now children learn how to use Microsoft Excel.

While I am aware that all the solutions presented are complex and not easy to implement, my objective is not to oversimplify the problem. Instead, I want to convey a positive message that the solution is in our hands. Expressing a controversial thought, I believe that judging AI based on the expectation of perfection is a mistake. Rather than striving for perfection, we should evaluate AI based on how much it enhances human abilities.

For example, if self-driving cars can reduce accidents by 90%, it's worth considering the benefits of using AI versus human drivers. While we cannot hold AI accountable in the same way we do humans, the implementation of AI could save lives. Additionally, it's essential to consider bias and fairness. Additionally, it's essential to consider bias and fairness. Although humans are often biased, we can regulate AI algorithms to be less biased and fairer than humans.  While AI will not be perfect, it can still improve our society as long as it makes fewer errors and biased decisions than humans. Although we must act responsibly and be held accountable for the deployment of AI-driven systems, it's important not to obsess over achieving perfection, which is unachievable in our current reality.

Addressing critical ethical challenges in AI requires a collaborative approach involving governments, industry, academia, and civil society. By bringing together stakeholders to develop best practices for AI, initiatives like the Partnership on AI can help ensure that AI provides long-term value. Similarly, initiatives such as the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, AI Now Institute, Center for AI and Digital Policy, and Future of Life Institute, which aims to develop standards and guidelines for ethical AI, can help ensure that AI is developed and deployed in a responsible and beneficial manner.

In conclusion, the challenges of ethical AI adoption are undeniable, but the benefits of AI for our society are enormous. AI has the potential to address some of our most pressing challenges, from climate change to public health crises. While it is crucial to remain mindful of the ethical implications of AI, we must not let fear or uncertainty prevent us from pursuing its potential to drive economic and humanitarian progress.All stakeholders - from researchers and engineers to policymakers and educators - must work together to develop responsible and ethical AI technologies and to ensure that they are deployed in a way that maximizes benefits and minimizes harm. Through collective efforts, we can build a future in which AI helps us achieve a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous society.

Sci-Fi Journey Through the Future of AI

As a bonus, I will now fulfill the promise I made at the beginning of this blog and provide a futuristic timeline of a world where humans and AI coexist in harmony and peace.

If, like me, you are a fan of science fiction movies, you may have noticed that a dystopian future is a common theme. Clearly, my colleague, Daniel Schieber, seems to have watched all these movies. Perhaps the tension and drama of such stories appeal to audiences, or perhaps the writers genuinely believe in the potential for a bleak future. Some of my favorites in this genre include The Matrix, Blade Runner, Gattaca, Surrogates, I Robot, and Ex-Machina, all of which depict a future that has spiraled out of control due to the misuse of technology, particularly AI. These movies touch on important ethical topics and how the human nature brought us to those situations. However, as an optimistic geek, I have some predictions and hopes for our sci-fi distant future:

2050:  In this not-so-distant future, AI has evolved to a point where it seamlessly integrates into every aspect of our lives, bringing greater efficiency, comfort, and personalization. AI has automated much of our daily work, allowing humans to work only 20 hours a week. In exchange, humans have learned how to practice ethical behavior around AI, and have pressured corporations and governments to follow responsible AI guidelines. Interestingly, an AI-optimized ads campaign played a key role in convincing everyone of the benefits of ethical behavior. We now live in a peaceful world, and AI has become a key factor in  in addressing climate change and sustainability.

2075:  It's been 25 years since we achieved peace, but back then, "we" only referred to the industrialized world. Inequality was growing, and the new ethical consciousness around AI prompted a massive movement to make the world more egalitarian. With AI help, there is no longer food or resource shortages, and with just 20 hours of work per week and well-rested hearts, people are more willing to help each other. Resource sharing has become commonplace, and borders between countries are now more open.

2122: With the help of AI, there has been a breakthrough in biology and physics. Space travel at warp speed has become a reality, and multiple colonies of humans and machines are exploring the universe in search of a new home, not because Earth has become uninhabitable, but because humans have an inherent drive to conquer and explore. Or did you think we will spend the remaining 148 hours a week playing video games?

2222: AI has become so seamlessly integrated that it is difficult to distinguish what is human and what is AI. We've merged into a single entity, with our brains, senses, and bodies enhanced to the point where we can’t even remember which abilities are inherently human and which were added by machines. Creativity, innovation, and physical strength continue to thrive in a happy and equalitarian world that has expanded to multiple planets.

Can this future become a reality? The technology may be there, but the key difference between my optimistic vision and the dystopian movies mentioned earlier is the humans driving it. Will our nature enable us to be selfless, responsible, fair, and generous? As an eternal optimist, even I have few moments of doubt. However, I believe that as long as we continue to work towards a more responsible and ethical integration of AI into our society, and strive to better ourselves as humans, a positive future where humans and AI coexist in harmony and peace is not only possible but achievable.

I trust you found my optimistic perspective on AI technology thought-provoking. If you're curious about a darker outlook, I encourage you to read the opposing blog post written by my colleague, Daniel Schieber:
About the Author
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Carolina Bessega
Innovation Lead, Office of the CTO

Carolina Bessega is an Innovation Lead at the Office of the CTO for Extreme Networks. She combines a strategic mindset alongside 22+ years of experience in science and technology.

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