We have often explored the conflicting views of salespeople. Sometimes they are loved, but often they are seen as pushy, unfriendly, and greedy. This negative connotation is often seen in movies and media. A prominent example is the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, in which the salespeople are portrayed as obnoxious, conniving, cheating, and constantly complaining about their leads.
Fear of Change
The same can be seen in views and portrayals of artificial intelligence. The positive views include all that AI could potentially do for us. The negative views come mainly from fear—many people are afraid of what AI might bring us.
AI is creating exponential and rapid change. We are realizing that we as individuals, communities, cities, and industries will also have to change. But change is also often feared.
One fear is that artificial intelligence exists in a black box and is uncontrollable. There are so many unknowns about where it might go—for example, maybe one day the cyborgs will become real and take over.
Another fear is that AI developers are more interested in the power it could have for machines than in how it could help humanity.
A major fear is that people will lose their jobs and be replaced by AI. There is an element of truth in this—one example is the function of paralegals. In the future, AI will perform this function much better than humans because it can conduct and compile research much faster. Paralegals would do well to start training for a different line of work.
Fear is usually irrational. On the positive side, there are also unrealistic expectations about what AI can do for us. On both counts, I want to stay within the realm of what we can currently expect from AI.
15 years ago, I published a book called The IT Revolution and pointed out that this revolution was happening faster and faster. This is still true today. The cause of that speed, then and now, is the ever-increasing number of programmers involved in technological innovation. There’s a difference between thousands and millions of people involved.
I recently saw an interesting comment that in the 1980s, most of the top programmers would fit in one room. Today, over a hundred million programmers are using the GitHub platform alone. In addition, there are millions of others working on AI development. That means hundreds of millions of people are constantly innovating in this industry.
How far have we come? We can use an analogy of movement.
Over the last few hundred years, we have focused on the speed of moving our bodies to different places. The first great leap was the railroad. The next was the automobile. Then came airplanes, and now we’ve moved on to rockets. In the 18th century, traveling from Vienna to Rome by foot, horse, or carriage could take weeks or even months. Now that trip can be made in 1 hour and 20 minutes by airplane. We have certainly succeeded in moving bodies.
What is happening today, in my opinion, is that we have gotten to the point of moving our minds. That is where artificial intelligence is taking us.
One of my earliest experiences in technology was along these lines. In the 1980s, I brought Apple computers to European universities, focusing on medical schools. One particular professor in a cardiology department was very enthusiastic about computers, and I set up a computer in one room and connected it via PhoneNET to another computer in another room. I was in the first room, and the professor was in the other. I sent a single file over the network from one computer to the other and told the professor, “Yell when the file has arrived!” He did, and it was an exhilarating moment.
Very soon, AI will have access to almost every file in the world. Projects are underway to digitize all books, all documents, all works of art and music. Everything that can be digitized will be. When many of us were young, we researched in a physical library. Before Wikipedia and the Internet, we had to sift through books to find the information we wanted. Today, all knowledge can be digitized and accessible right at our fingertips.
We’ve moved our bodies, and now we’re really moving our minds. This movement means there will be innovation of incredible solutions. It will no longer be predictable what humans will program.
Collaboration and Cooperation
The speed of innovation today is hampered by the distance between collaborating individuals. None of the major challenges facing our world can be solved by a single person. Every problem we face in the future will require collaboration and cooperation.
Here are three examples of issues that require this type of approach:
1. Global Immigration
Using Europe as an example, can one country really solve the problem? Even if the European Union got together and dictated immigration rules, the rules would be meaningless if Libya, Morocco, Egypt, or Turkey didn’t follow them. Of course, immigration is also a problem in the USA, Africa and Asia.
2. Worldwide Health Care
In a very short time, we learned from the COVID crisis how much of an issue health care is. During COVID, we were practically in prison, or some moved to Sweden and were free. This issue also requires intense cooperation and collaboration.
As long as the majority of some countries, or the majority of the population in countries like China, India and others, do not buy into sustainable environmental practices, there will be no real solutions. Clouds that bring vital rainfall do not stop at the borders of uncooperative nations and refuse to bring rain to them.
Use of AI
These and all significant issues require cooperation and coordination. I suggest that artificial intelligence could produce far more efficient decision-making processes and solutions than we as individuals could even imagine. This is because AI has access to all the data. This data includes all the empirical papers, documentation, and studies from universities around the world. For the first time in history, these can be accessed and used where needed without emotional attachment or bias because technology has none.
The more we export knowledge and make it available to artificial intelligence, the more we can reduce the biases generally involved in important decision-making processes. For example, in an international conference, every country has different interests. AI could help us solve many of the problems we face in the future with an unbiased global perspective.
Focus on the Positive
Between the positives and negatives of AI, I really think we should focus on the positives. We are a long, long way from artificial intelligence taking over the world. It’s far more realistic to focus on the current positive benefits that AI can provide.
Of course, as AI develops, we will need to put regulations in place. Just to go back to moving bodies, we have many regulations for all industries that involve flying or driving. It must be the same for AI in the future.
Let’s focus on the positive!