The Benefits and Dangers of Artificial Intelligence: Is It Even Sustainable?

The arrival of artificial intelligence in public debate has shaken the world. In sectors that are closely related to technological development and innovation, the impact hasn’t been quite so shattering, given it’s a topic experts have been working on for decades now. The general population, however, is much more suspicious. Not just through a lack of understanding of what is artificial intelligence, but also in terms of identifying and analysing the risks involved in its use. And that’s what leaves confidence in using the technology languishing at low levels.



The majority of people still don’t trust artificial intelligence



AI has been around for years. And while it’s certainly true the technology has undergone phases and development issues of varying degrees, all this has happened far from the public gaze. Now, as it appears an explosive cycle in the development of AI features and possibilities is firmly underway, people are beginning to take notice and ask some fundamental questions: just what is artificial intelligence? How does it work? Is our privacy guaranteed? Who controls the algorithms that make artificial intelligence possible?


These are just a snapshot of some of the doubts that most people share when faced with any type of AI. In fact, recent studies from the likes of Stanford University and companies such as KPMG, in collaboration with the University of Queensland, show that the prevailing sentiment lies somewhere between distrust and outright avoidance. The data shows that – at least for now – around three out of every five people (61%) are wary of trusting AI systems, either because they don’t see any clear benefits, or because they believe the benefits don’t outweigh the risks – something reported by 50% of those surveyed.



Some potential dangers of artificial intelligence



According to the studies mentioned above, whether or not someone has a positive or negative perception of AI largely depends on the context of each particular situation and the person in question’s degree of proximity to the technology. But negative feelings typically revolve around a few common doubts when it comes to using AI, including:


  • Transparency. Particularly because users can’t freely access the algorithms that allow artificial intelligence to work, as they’re the protected intellectual property of the companies running AI projects.
  • Security and privacy. Essentially, artificial intelligence works because it automatically accesses and manages vast amounts of data. The specific data involved, its degree of protection and potential vulnerabilities in terms of our fundamental rights when using it also imply a certain level of risk.
  • Data handling. The way in which AI uses our information and combs through masses of entirely irrelevant data – without any simple way of distinguishing between the two – is another key aspect that arouses suspicion in sectors such as the media, politics and social networking.
  • Decision-making. The ultimate goal is for artificial intelligence to develop so much that it can “make decisions” for us, allowing us to divert our attention to more pressing matters. But the extent to which we’re prepared to grant AI autonomy and the things we’ll let it take over are other hot button issues.



Benefits of artificial intelligence



In the end, there are also plenty of advantages that AI could offer as we look to the future. Artificial intelligence will be called on to drastically alter massive portions of our everyday lives. It will let us be much more efficient at work in a sustainable way. It will free us from tedious, repetitive tasks and those prone to mistakes or inaccuracies, leaving more room for creative tasks. It will create new jobs in innovative industries – beyond those it might “destroy” –, removing geographical and temporal barriers. It will improve the things that matter to us, such as health, lifestyle and work/life balance. The list goes on.


The benefits are such that doubts can largely be eliminated as the technological, legal and ethical bases of artificial intelligence gradually emerge. AI could be as transformative – technologically speaking – as the shift from horse and cart to the combustion engine…

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