AI should serve us, not destroy our humanity

03 June 2020
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Updated 03 June 2020

AI should serve us, not destroy our humanity

Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is leaving its footprint in everything from Siri and Alexa to self-driving cars and drones, from shopping and ride-share apps to farming, robotic factories and warfare, from Google maps and traffic predictions to machine translation, banking and fraud detection. AI is insinuating itself in more and more areas of our lives, to the extent that we no longer know what is and what is not AI, or even where, when and how corporations and businesses use it.

With its ability to store incredible amounts of data, AI — still in its infancy — is indispensable and adaptive within the specific specialization its particular logarithms were created for. Nothing will stop its evolution because the benefits are endless on our obsessive road to perpetual improvement. There has been a shift in the way we interact with machine technology and apply information of formal scientific jargon to the real world.

And although it has upgraded our existence, it also has negative implications leading us to wonder to what extent should AI invade our lives? With an ever-increasing global population growth, the need for employment is a priority and yet one of the crises we must deal with is unemployment made all the more significant due, partly, to robotic replacement.

Factories, agriculture, medicine, storage houses and retail are some areas where human participation has diminished. Machine translation has achieved a proficient linguistic level, especially in Romance and Germanic languages, reducing the need for translators. Warfare has reached a surreal level because drones and autonomous systems achieve automated tasks with absurd accuracy. Companies and security forces monitor citizens and, by extension, nations. Hacking and identity theft have become effortless as AI overrides logical order, and online terrorism has found new ways of recruiting. The human element has been removed and replaced.

And, yet, can AI be used to make important life-changing decisions? Does it have common sense? Can it respond to regular dialogue and demonstrative exchanges? Can it dream, feel pain or be the victim of emotional or subconscious choices?

Politically, governments will need to create, revise and regularly renew legislation to protect people’s rights, avoid potentially destabilizing misuse and understand that AI can not replace humanity’s empathy or recognize cultural dimensions. Thanks to technology, our world has shrunk but has also created security threats the actions of which will affect one country after another, and if global interactions are to be successful and effective, transparency needs to be fully practiced.

Our hand-held devices are already causing social distancing and if we don’t protect the human elements, our lives will become artificial. Human-to-human social interaction is essential to progress, emotionally and psychologically. Lack of it and dependency on robotics could lead to depression and other problems. There is nothing like a friend’s hug, a mother’s caress or a helping hand.

Finally, we need to consider the way data is received, stored and interpreted as well as the objectivity and impartiality of the programmer. Technology should serve us, but not destroy our humanity.

• Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee within the Shoura.