For the past few months, I’ve been quietly observing “normal” people around the world slowly waking up to the impact and (intended and “unintended”) consequences of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on society.
As I had anticipated, the general public is grossly unprepared for a “tidal wave of shocks” that we will be met with “tsunamis” of complaints, protests, industrial strikes, violence, arrests, indignation and outrage as the world transitions from the “industrial” to the “information” age.
These “shocks” will be amplified by the rapid evolution of emerging technologies such as “AI”, quantum computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), the metaverse (enriched by progress with augmented, virtual, and mixed reality), and more – permeating every part of society regardless of race, creed, or culture.
Awareness & Education
I’ve been attempting to raise awareness about all of these things via articles, blogs, and books about “AI and Society” since 2020, with research stretching as far back as 2013 — a decade ago!
In 2021, when the world was gripped by the COVID19 pandemic, I published an article on LinkedIn — available here — where I highlighted the following
This crisis highlights something that has always been true about AI: it is a tool, and the value of its use in any situation is determined by the humans who design it and use it.
Ultimately, in the current crisis, human action and innovation will determine how far AI is leveraged – across all parts of society.
Land of Confusion
Returning to the present, I feel it is even more important to revisit my previous reflections and advises, especially since OpenAI’s release of ChatGPT which has (from my perspective) sadly generated a lot of fear, confusion, and misinformation.
There are reports of “AI” being sentient (able to perceive or feel things) and that ChatGPT is “proof” that we are on the verge of “Artificial General Intelligence” (any AI system that exhibits human-level intelligence) and we are all doomed!
Why are we so quick to accept dystopian ideas of AI (and Robots) typically shaped by science fiction, our imagination, and fear (of extinction, of ..)?
Why are we so ready to accept machine and ‘artificial’ intelligence as an alternative to (and even a replacement for) humans?
Why are we allowing “digitalisation” to impact our natural human disposition for social interaction, relationships, and community?
Why do we expect “machines” to answer profound questions about “life”, “love”, “God”, the universe, and more? Are we ready to give up trusting other humans such as our own parents, grandparents, teachers, doctors, priests, and so forth?
Social Implications of AI
In Chapter 8 of my book, “Understanding the Role of Artificial Intelligence and Its Future Social Impact” (available here), I described the “Social Implications of AI” as “anything that affects an individual, a community or the wider society”.
I also predicted that “many social implications have been and will continue to be surprising”.
I outlined a series of questions which are even more relevant today, namely,
- Will people simply become consumers served by intelligent systems that respond to our every whim?
- Are we reaching a tipping point between convenience and dependency?
- How will AI affect social issues relating to housing, finance, privacy, poverty and so on?
- Do we want a society in which machines supplementing or augment humans?
I stressed then and repeat the same message now – that it is important to be as clear as possible about the social implications to truly understand the benefits and risks.
Otherwise, we will be drowned in misinformation, and worse, which will only lead more fear, powerlessness, and extreme mental health issues.
Impact of AI on Jobs
AI and Robots will not cause job losses. On the contrary, jobs will simply change. It is up to business leaders and professionals involved in job creation, talent management, learning & development, and recruitment, to ACT NOW, to REIMAGINE JOB ROLES, to CREATE NEW CAREER PATHWAYS, and DEVELOP STRATEGIES that embrace a future underpinned by “Humans + AI”.
This presumes that we accept AI will amplify and enhance our creativity with the benefit of significant improvement in our productivity and output in much shorter timescales. Thus, we will be “gifted” time which we don’t currently have to create better quality products, more innovative solutions, and diverse services which would have been impossible without AI augmenting our human potential.
Stop .. Pause .. Breathe!
All of the above, assumes that we will continue operating an “industrial” model (underpinned by manufacturing, “factory” and distribution processes) primarily focused on “producers” and “consumers”.
There must be a better way .. what happened to the promise of #newnormal?
What if we challenged ourselves to create a future that responds to the “call to action” by all countries — poor, rich and middle-income — to promote prosperity while protecting the planet and safeguarding a future for our children and grandchildren?
Wasn’t this at the core of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) supported unanimously by 193 heads of state and other top leaders?
No wonder the younger generation regularly protest about corruption amongst governments, politicians, and the ruling classes.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The SDGs recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.
Isn’t it about time we recognise the emergence of a more multipolar international system, not beholden to American or Western dominated institutions, that serves as the backbone of a reimagined future built for the “information age”?
Celebrate Being Human
Rather than allow your mind to be drowned by fear of being replaced or displaced by “AI”, focus instead on your strengths, skills, and expertise gained when you started out in your career or vocation.
Take the time to learn about the “humanities” to help learn from the past, provide crucial insights into the behaviour detailing the future.
The implications of new scientific and technological developments, the effect a new cancer treatment might have on individuals, predicting how increases in digital communication will alter human interaction, informing our understanding of what climate change might mean for where and how we live; for all of these, an understanding of behaviour, community and morality are vital.
However, the humanities and social sciences are first and foremost about understanding, questioning, fulfilment, culture and identity. They also infuse our economy and our public and cultural life.
Our innate human qualities and “inner self” inform our understanding of ourselves and our communities. As COVID19 pandemic showed, together, we can tackle any challenges faced by society across borders, cultures, and generations.
In a recent “opinion” essay for the The New York Times, the linguist and professor, Noam Chomsky said that although the current spate of AI chatbots such as OpenAI‘s ChatGPT and Microsoft‘s Bing AI “have been hailed as the first glimmers on the horizon of artificial general intelligence (AGI)” — the point at which AIs are able to think and act in ways superior to humans — we absolutely are not anywhere near that level yet.
While currently available AI chatbots may seem to *mimic* human creativity and ingenuity, they are doing so only based on statistical probability, and not as a result of the kind of deeper knowledge and understanding that is inherent in all human thought processes.
There’s no way that machine learning as it is today could compete with the human mind. In fact todays ‘AIs’ are “stuck in a prehuman or nonhuman phase of cognitive evolution,” Chomsky argued.
I share this viewpoint and encourage readers of this article to stop supporting the dystopian agenda surrounding AI.
Instead, pay attention to what’s real and what is not.
Connect & Follow Me
If you’re concerned about AI and want to discuss this topic further, get in touch either via #DMs or book a meeting by clicking this link.
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Most importantly, be the change you want to see in the world. Together, we can shape a better, equitable and sustainable future – for EVERYONE!
Until next time. Stay Healthy – mentally, physically, spiritually.