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Busting the myths: Will AI wipe out humanity?

The early history of AI is deeply intertwined with the emergence of a technological myth centered around the possibility of creating thinking machines by using the tools provided by digital computing.

Although artificial intelligence has become commonplace—most smartphones contain some version of AI, such as speech recognition—the public still has a poor understanding of the technology. As a result, a diverse cast of critics, driven by fear of technology, opportunism, or ignorance, has jumped into the intellectual vacuum to warn policymakers that, sooner than we think, AI will produce a parade of horribles: mass unemployment, abuse from “algorithmic bias,” the end of privacy, an atrophying of human agency, and even the destruction of humanity, as “Skynet”-like machines decide the world is better off without us.

Recently, in Kerala, the transport authority installed AI cameras in traffic signals to monitor the public. This created a frenzy among the people, which arose from the fear of AI. During the trial run, the state witnessed a series of unexpected reactions from the public, such as hiding a child in the scooter, believing AI would charge a fine if it tracked three people travelling in a two-wheeler. People expect AI to be an unreasonable dominator in their daily lives.

In reality, AI is like a shovel or a tractor: It is a tool in the service of humans, improving our lives. Most importantly, the public should know that AI is not here to control how they live.

AI myths- The origin
The early history of AI is deeply intertwined with the emergence of a technological myth centered around the possibility of creating thinking machines by using the tools provided by digital computing. C. Dianne Martin (1993) has discussed a prominent aspect of the imagination surrounding computers, that is, the vision of the computer as an ‘awesome thinking machine’.

To understand the AI myth, it is essential to look also at the professional and techno-scientific milieux of technologists beyond the inner circle of AI scientists. For this purpose, a researcher from Loughborough University, UK, carried out preliminary research on the period of study (1950–1975) to identify significant magazines where the development of the discipline was widely discussed at a technical level. This thematic inspection was conducted on a sample of articles containing computer, cybernetics and intelligence.

Their analysis revealed three main patterns that characterized the construction of the AI myth.

  • Discursive shifts: Concepts and ideas from other fields and contexts are used as analogies to describe concepts in AI.
  • Projecting future: Strong reliance on claims about future developments in the field.
  • Role of controversies: Strong controversies regarding the claims of (robust) AI.

Excitement V/S Panic
The role of our movies is not little in creating AI myths. From the Hebrew myth of the golem to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to films such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, and most recently, Ex Machina, to video commentary pieces with titles such as “We should be more afraid of computers than we are,” it has been common to view technology as a threat.

According to computer scientist and philosopher George Zarkadakis, the influence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on literature cannot be overstated. It encapsulates the core narrative of fear about science and technology and AI in particular. Most narratives only add to the confusion by devising fictional characters that are machines with human characteristics or souls. The conflicting literary narratives of love and fear condition the ways we discuss robots, androids, and intelligent machines.

Capability of AI
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that as people interact more with robots, their abstract conceptions of them will become more anthropomorphic. As AI develops and more people experience how it can improve their lives, attitudes toward AI will likely become much more positive.

Mentioned following are some of the common fears surrounding AI:

  • AI destroy Most jobs
  • AI will make humans stupid
  • AI will destroy our privacy
  • The complexity of AI will enable bias and abuse
  • AI will exterminate the human race

But in reality, the current AI cannot do any of these. AI will be like past technologies, modestly boosting productivity growth and not affecting the overall number of jobs and unemployment rates. It will modify the way we work by enabling the world to make smarter decisions. It will have little effect on privacy. Privacy issues will be here regardless, and most information practices are and will be bound by laws and regulations.

The bias in AI will be directly proportional to the attitude of the human who built it. Therefore, if the training data is unbiased, it is more likely that smart machines will be less biased than humans.

There are two reasons not to worry about AGI taking over soon. The first relates to the fact that most of these predictions are premised on steady, if not accelerating, progress in Moore’s law. The reality is that Moore’s law has slowed by half over the last 12 years compared to the prior three decades, hardly evidence of our exponential acceleration. The second reason not to worry about the AI apocalypse is that software and the mind are completely different systems, and even major advances in computing are unlikely to produce the latter. India AI

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