NEXT UP ON this.
Artificial Intelligence is often likened to society’s child and stands at the crossroads of immense potential and possible peril.
This rapidly evolving double-edged sword has woven itself into the very fabric of our world like never before. Like the lightbulb, internet and the mobile phone before it, we’re now more connected than ever and with ChatGPT and Google at our beck and call, nothing is beyond reach.
While the merits are undeniable, questions loom about the darker facets of its progress,
Deakin University’s Professor Richard Dazeley believes AI is a positive for society. He notes,
‘With an ageing population and an overpopulation, there is an emerging issue where we will soon start to see a decrease in the size of the human workforce.’
Therefore, automation, driven by AI, becomes crucial to maintain the services and sustain economic growth (GDP).
It may come as a surprise, but AI technology has been around for close to 50 years, akin to ABBA’s iconic ‘Dancing Queen’.
‘The first significant commercial use of what we would still call AI today, was Knowledge Based Systems – think Google Doctor. These methods have been used to improve business processes and provide decision support,’ he explains.
However, they weren’t employed to replace existing jobs.
‘Most AI, until recently, were being designed to perform new tasks, which meant jobs weren’t being significantly taken away from the workforce. An example is CCTV analysis, it’s enhanced by AI rather than costing people their job.’
Much like Forrest Gump’s analogy for life, you never know what you’re going to get next with AI.
‘AI tends to progress in big steps and then have a period of relative calm,’ and it’s very hard to predict what the next evolution will be, even for AI scientists, continues Prof. Dazeley.
‘There are thousands of researchers and companies all working in separate areas and it only takes one to make a breakthrough in an area we don’t expect, and the prediction is wrong,’ he clarifies.
Prof. Dazeley envisions integrated AI systems as the next milestone.
‘There are numerous major companies working specifically on developing such systems. These systems can break a request down into component parts, feed those parts to the relevant AIs to solve and then put the answers back together,’ he says.
Calls for a pause in AI development to allow governments and certification bodies to catch up have emerged recently. However, Prof. Dazeley deems this unlikely due to global competition, as attempts to block development would result in those countries falling behind.
Data privacy concerns may also hamper AI development.
‘Managing and protecting people’s data when using such models could make it harder to develop commercially viability products. This is not an AI problem – it’s a privacy problem. These socio-cultural issues are the most likely hold up to the commercial use of these systems,’ he explains.
Certain industries, particularly those centred around writing, have already felt the impact of AI.
‘The general AI writes well, but not well enough to write something as sophisticated as movie scripts yet.’
While some industries will be more affected than others, he believes every area will be affected by automating repetitive and administrative tasks.
Physical industries may be among the last to experience AI’s full impact, as robotics development lags behind AI progress, continues Prof. Dazeley. As a result, physical work areas may be some of the last areas affected by AI. These jobs include trades, nursing and caring industries.’
This doesn’t include trades for the development of new things, such as housing construction or furniture construction, he explains.
‘It’s likely to be automated in such a way that the system controls the whole environment and people stay out while it is build,’ says Prof. Dazeley.
Prof. Dazeley’s concerns are predominately coming from how society is using AI as opposed to the technology itself. ‘People tend to use the technology they have access to without much concern as to how it affects others.’
‘The world spent hundreds of years developing corporate legal processes to ensure companies operate in a way that aligns with society. When it comes to AI, we need a similar certification framework developed.
If we are too slow in developing this, then the emerging AI will not align with what society generally wants. This work should have started well before now.’
That being said, there is always a risk with any new development, but overall, as a technologist, Prof. Dazeley believes ‘it is a net positive for society’.
Subscribe for a regular dose of technology, innovation, culture and personal development.