Will AI become destroyer of humanity?

Not everyone is optimistic over the future of artificial intelligence (AI), as the technology is still of minimal use because of a lack of datasets.

Experts are also poles apart on whether the data-driven tech area will pose more of a threat to people, rather than making their lives more convenient in many different ways.

Some AI optimists say it will do more good in areas such as medical science and traffic safety.

Others counter the claim, arguing that ill-used or hacked datasets can bring an astronomical impact that could instantly offset all the upsides of AI.

The latest in a series of AI conflicts came last week when two tech magnates — Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — waged a war of words over the upcoming AI era.

Musk is wary of AI development and calls for people to come up with proactive regulatory measures, as it can one day overtake its human creators.

But the Facebook founder opposed the idea, calling AI naysayers “irresponsible,” as it is already making the world a better and safer place by helping humans in medical diagnosis and treatment.

This has raised a heated debate online, as no expert can reach a conclusion over the hot potato, as AI is still in its infancy.

But a more cautious and careful step should be taken when it comes to AI research and its commercialization, so that fewer people fall victim to potential side effects that can arise over the course of its development, according to experts here, Sunday.

“Any technologies — once developed by people — are irreversible and always moves forward,” said Lee Soon-seok, a senior researcher and executive director at the communication strategy department at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

“This means AI is an unavoidable trend, and therefore, each country should reach a consensus over ways to minimize the AI divide,” he said. “This is crucial, as people’s personal lives will be more vulnerable to continuous threats over online hacking in the hyper-connected era.”

But the researcher at the nation’s leading telecom research organization underlined the importance of focusing more on the upsides of AI.

“While robots or AI focus on physical and one-dimensional activities, people can spare more time on more delicate and non-material workloads that computerized systems cannot duplicate,” he said.

The researcher said many people are concerned about the upcoming artificial general intelligence (AGI) era, an advanced level of existing AI bots, which can perform most of intellectual activities that people do, regardless of restricted fields.

“But it will take enormous amount of time for the AI to learn all human knowledge structures, and much more time will be required for the computerized system to be able to have an ability to develop them by itself.”

Jung Han-min, a professor at the University of Science and Technology (UST), also concurred that it is almost impossible for any governments to put a brake on the current AI-driven tech development despite lingering concerns over its negative impacts on people’s lives.

“The primary goal of the ongoing corporate-level AI research is on minimizing labor forces and maximizing production efficiency,” he said, citing examples of smart factories of Siemens and Adidas.

Siemens’ manufacturing facility in Amberg, Germany, has particularly drawn the spotlight as a successful example of the AI-driven smart factory. The Amberg plant uses the firm’s automated machines to manufacture customized products without a human workforce.

“Companies seek to maximize profits, for which AI is serving as a key building block now,” he said. For this reason, even if a government implements any regulatory measures against commercial AI players, it would invite a strong backlash from them, he said. At the moment, there is no specific middle ground for both sides to reach a consensus over the future of AI, according to him.

“We need to take a more balanced and careful step toward the AI development,” he said. “For those who are at the risk of losing their jobs, AI is something that poses a threat, but companies — such as Google, Amazon and local AI players Naver and Kakao — view the technology as a major growth area that can diversify their revenue streams,” he said. “For this reason, no one can say for sure whether AI will become a destroyer of people,” according to the expert.

By Lee Min-hyung

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