Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence

Daniel Adjei, Managing Partner, Spint Consult Limited

The concept of artificial intelligence is that computer systems can be used to perform tasks that would normally require a human. These can range from speech recognition and translation into different languages, all the way through to visual perception and even decision making.

John McCarthy is one of the “founding fathers” of artificial intelligence, together with Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell, and Herbert A. Simon. McCarthy coined the term “artificial intelligence” in 1955, and organized the famous Dartmouth conference in summer 1956. This conference started AI as a field.

Broadly speaking, anything can be considered artificial intelligence if it involves a program doing something that we would normally think would rely on the intelligence of a human. Quite how this is achieved is not the point – just the fact that it can be done, is a sign of artificial intelligence.

We can categorizes AI in several ways, including:

  • Its capacity to mimic human characteristics.
  • The technologies enabling human characteristics to be mimicked.
  • The real-world applications of the system.
  • Theory of Mind.

In general artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer program or a machine to think and learn. It is also a field of study which tries to make computers “smart”. They work on their own without being encoded with commands. The overall research goal of artificial intelligence is to create technology that allows computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner.

People have feared artificial intelligence (AI) almost as soon as it was invented. Like any technology, there is no inherent good or evil of AI, it’s how it’s used and implemented. People are just projecting their own misuse onto the technology. Once you look past the foolish fears, what you have is a technology that is hard to create, easy to control, and more of a threat to certain jobs than our overall existence. Let us consider the following as discussed by Andy Patrizio and Arrkgroup

The benefits

Dealing with mundane tasks

One massive advantage of artificial intelligence is its potential to complete mundane tasks through intricate automation that will increase productivity. Theoretically this can even remove “boring” tasks from humans and free them up to be increasingly creative. Humans get bored, machines don’t. Let them do the humdrum jobs. “A.I. allows for more intricate process automation, which increases productivity of resources and takes repetitive, boring labor off the shoulders of humans. They can focus on creative tasks instead,” said Felicia Schneiderhan, CEO of 30SecondToFly, an AI virtual travel assistant.

Faster decisions: To err is human. Computers don’t. The only mistakes they make is when you don’t program them properly. AI processing will insure error-free processing of data, no matter how large the dataset. Judgment calls, however, are a different matter. “Computers are ‘stupid,’ but that is their brilliance – they demand such a high level of rigor and AI adds quantitative rigor on top of that, that to use AI at all you first have to ask yourself the very challenging but stimulating question of what you’re trying to do, with a new level of acuity,” said Dr. Nathan Wilson, CTO and co-founder of Nara Logics, synaptic intelligence company.

Using artificial intelligence alongside cognitive technologies can help make faster decisions and carry out actions quicker. “Areas like automated fraud detection, planning and scheduling further demonstrate this benefit,” said Kalyan Kumar, executive vice president at HCL Technologies, an IT services provider in India.

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Avoiding errors: The phrase “human error” was born because humans, naturally, make mistakes from time to time. Computers however, do not make these mistakes – that is, of course, assuming they are programmed properly. With artificial intelligence, data could be processed error-free, no matter how big the dataset might be.

Better research outcomes: “AI-based technologies like computer vision help in achieving better outcomes through improved prediction, which can include medical diagnosis, oil exploration and demand forecasting,” said Kumar.

Taking risks on behalf of humans: With artificial intelligence, you can arguably lessen the risks you expose humans to in the name of research. Take, for example, space exploration and the Mars rover, known as Curiosity. It can travel across the landscape of Mars, exploring it and determining the best paths to take, while learning to think for itself. Using artificial intelligence in this manner could potentially lead to massive benefits in areas such as demand forecasting, medical diagnosis and oil exploration.

AI-powered machines are doing jobs humans either can’t do or would have to do very carefully. Space exploration is one of them. The Mars rover Curiosity is an example. It is freely roaming Mars because it examines the landscape as it explores and determines the best path to take. The result is that Curiosity is learning to think for itself. 


The challenges

Job losses

There is little doubt that artificial intelligence will displace many low-skilled jobs. Arguably, robots have already taken many jobs on the assembly line – but now this could extend to new levels. Take, for example, the concept of driverless cars, which could displace the need to have millions of human drivers, from taxi drivers to chauffeurs, very quickly. Of course some would argue that artificial intelligence will create more wealth than it destroys – but there is genuine risk that this will not be distributed evenly, particularly during its early expansion. There is no way around it, AI will cost lesser-skilled people their jobs. Robots have already taken many jobs on assembly lines and as AI gets better at doing complex tasks, even more low-skill jobs will be taken.

“AI will create much more wealth than it destroys, but it will not be equitably distributed, especially at first,” said Wilson. Driverless cars is one obvious singular tech that will displace millions of human drivers fairly quickly, although the recent fatality involving a Tesla car on auto-drive may have set the whole effort back a bit.

The changes will be subliminally felt and not overt, said Wilson. “A tax accountant won’t one day receive a pink slip and meet the robot that is now going to sit at her desk. Rather, the next time the tax accountant applies for a job, it will be a bit harder to find a job.”

Distribution of power: Artificial intelligence carries the risk, in the minds of some, of taking control away from humans – de-humanising actions in many ways. Nations that are in possession of artificial intelligence could theoretically kill humans without needing to pull a trigger. This could mean a lot of power will be in the hands of a few who are controlling it. “AI de-humanizes warfare as the nations in possession of advanced AI technology can kill humans without involving an actual human to pull the trigger,” said Schneiderhan.

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Lack of judgement calls: Humans can take unique circumstances and judgment calls into account when they make their decisions, something that artificial intelligence may never be able to do. One example occurred in Sydney, Australia, in 2014 when a shooting drama in the downtown area prompted people to make numerous calls to Uber in an effort to escape the area. The result was that Uber’s ride rates surged based on its supply and demand algorithm – there was no consideration involved for the circumstances in which the riders found themselves. “There is nothing artificial about intelligence,” said Kartik Iyengar, senior vice president of IoT & Skylab at VirtusaPolaris, a global IT consulting and technology services company.

“Intelligence is a fine balance of emotions and skill that is constantly developing. Today, shades of gray exist when we make judgments. Our behavior is an outcome of the world around us – the more artificial it becomes, the more our definitions are subject to deciding on simply right or wrong, rather than the quick mid-course corrections that make us human. Replacing adaptive human behavior with rigid, artificial intelligence could cause irrational behavior within ecosystems of people and things.”

So is artificial intelligence really a threat?: If you think that artificial intelligence is just a futuristic, Jetsons-style image that is unlikely to ever affect humans on a mass scale then look no further than the employees of Fukoko Mutual Life Insurance in Japan. In January 2017, 34 of its employees were dismissed from their jobs because the insurer had installed a new artificial intelligence system that could read medical certificates, gather data on hospital stays and surgeries, and, in the process, save the company an estimated 140 million Yen per year in salary costs.

Indeed a World Economic Forum study in 2016 predicted that around 5.1 million jobs will be lost to artificial intelligence over the next five years alone, across 15 countries. Yet, to counter-balance this argument, looking at the same industry – insurance – there are advantages to be gained too.

In February 2017, Tractable launched a system it claims could “radically transform” motor claims by simplifying the tedious manual process and helping to fight insurance fraud by flagging suspicious claims – potentially removing stress and expense from the process, leading to cost savings for companies and policyholders alike. Clearly, artificial intelligence has massive potential advantages. The key for humans, however, will be to use their own judgment to apply it productively and ensure the “rise of the robots” doesn’t get out of hand.

While AI destroys jobs, it also creates them. And according to a report from the research firm Gartner, artificial intelligence is currently creating more jobs than it destroys, with a net increase of over two million jobs by 2025. AI can be at its best when it helps humans to perform jobs.

The question is if it is creating jobs, helping us to perform our jobs better, can we also tax I.A? What is the pros and cons of A.I Taxation, can we implement A.I Taxation in Africa and for that matter Ghana? Let us discuss this in our next edition.


Daniel Adjei | Managing Partner | Spint Consult Limited | |


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