There seems little doubt at this point that artificial intelligence will become a major part of our lives over the next 50 years. It’s already in use in online search engines, language translators, and digital personal assistants. It’s aiding in cancer research, medical diagnosis, and personal care robots to help the elderly. It is also appearing in self-driving cars, at amusement parks and events, facial recognition, autonomous drones, and the smart grid.
Higher level AI or Artificial General Intelligence may become the biggest event in human history, certainly up there with the advent of agriculture and the Industrial Revolution. It holds the potential to aid us in reducing the impact of disease and of morbidity in old age, providing solutions to poverty, and even to remove the incentives of parties to go to war. It certainly holds the promise of being able to increase wealth across the planet, which will provide the resources to lift billions from poverty. By utilizing the best of what AGI has to offer, we have the potential to solve problems that have dogged the human race for eons.
But every new technology comes with risks and consequences. The use of AI to improve the efficiency of jobs will displace employees. If this transition occurs too quickly with no offset, it could lead to massive unemployment, increased income disparities, and heightened social strife, particularly in an age of instant communication.
In addition, the greatest risk with AI is not that it will become malevolent. That would only happen if it were programmed to be that way. No, the biggest threat may be in poorly designed directives and guidelines that could allow an AI with well-meaning goals to act badly and hurt people.