Artificial Intelligence – we need to be careful and controlled!


The term Artificial Intelligence was coined in the year 1956, however it is now over last couple of decades that it has become mainstream with countless use cases. Gone are those days when almost anything that we used to do, was done manually; we now live in times where a lot of work has been taken over by technology and various automatic processes. Artificial Intelligence has a special place in all that we do.

AI is a boon…

It is needless to state that Artificial Intelligence is constructively disrupting every section of the society. Not only is it transforming businesses like banking, healthcare or manufacturing to name a few, it has touched almost every single human being on this planet in some form of the other. Let us look at some powerful examples.

There are numerous start-ups including some of the largest companies, that are investing in ways that artificial intelligence can help transform our healthcare system. Artificial intelligence is not just improving lives; in some cases, it is saving lives; like the AI backed drone delivery of vaccines, blood and life-saving medications in Africa.

Artificial intelligence is instrumental in solving the environmental concerns we are experiencing today; like helping combat climate change (global warming & deforestation) by restoring forests by using  ‘AI algorithms for unique planting pattern’ with drones to fire seed missiles across fields, planting hundreds of potential trees in a matter of minutes.

Artificial Intelligence is not too far behind when it comes to entertaining us, it has been deployed around us to enhance our lives as well. Netflix, Spotify, Prime are excellent examples of being ‘AI-powered entertainment systems’ that enable our decision making by recommending movies, songs etc based upon our viewing histories and preferences. There are numerous such examples, where Artificial Intelligence is transforming our lives. Artificial Intelligence is so intertwined in all that we do that it is absolutely impossible to imagine living life without it today.

Yes, there are risks…

However, all great advancements come some inherent risks and Artificial Intelligence is no different. In the history of advancement of mankind, I doubt we will be able point out any one thing, which is not dangerous for us in any way or didn’t have the potential to cause harm. Yes, there are dangers of Artificial Intelligence, however, as always, there are some naysayers who only find faults and are predicting doomsday with imminent singularity. What has fuelled this breed of pessimists, are some of Hollywood Sci-Fi movies and science fiction novels that depict Artificial Intelligence as human-like robots that will take over the world.

Yes, there are risks associated with Artificial Intelligence and wrong algorithms, machine learning and bias can have serious economic, medical, and other practical consequences. Some of the keys risk that many industry leaders and eminent personalities like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates – have voiced are ultimately all focussed around us HUMANs, with most prominent being – ‘Weaponised Programming’. There are numerous other risks to individuals like physical safety, privacy, financial health and fair treatment. While for organizations and society at large there are other larger risks like reputations, integrity, national security, economic and political stability to name a few. There are numerous examples, where these risks have been highlighted recently.

So…what do we need…

Regulations – we need regulations on what can be done and what cant, what should be done and what shouldn’t. Trust & Transparency – Artificial Intelligence needs to be developed as an open technology rather than being proprietary or secretive by being owned by a few individuals or organizations. Trust & Transparency will help detect defects and unwanted developments – faster and in time for course correction. Education – There needs to be a fierce focus on education on training users and developers of artificially intelligent systems to be able to identify and prioritize risks and their root causes. Data handling trainings are going to be extremely important to avoid machine learning bias. Robust enterprise-wide controls – controls to guide the development and use of artificial intelligence systems, ensure proper oversight, and put into place strong policies, procedures, and contingency plans.

Do we really need to be worried – the short answer No – we need to be careful and controlled to avoid ethical, reputational and regulatory dilemmas. There is still a lot to be learned and documented about the potential risks that can affect individuals, organizations and society at large when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. Being careful about an appropriate balance between innovation and risk while instituting controls for managing the unthinkable.