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Concerns About AI and Ethics

August 5, 2020 • Shannon Flynn

As technology plays a more central role in our lives, its ethical issues become more prevalent. You can see this in artificial intelligence perhaps more than any other category of technology. Now that it’s a more commonplace concept, you’ll hear a lot of questions about AI and ethics.

AI and its ethical dilemmas may still seem like something out of a sci-fi flick. It may not look like it does in the movies, but it’s already more common than you’d think. Companies and researches need to start thinking about how to make and use AI ethically.

Employment

You’ve probably heard people talk about whether or not robots will come for their jobs. Simpler machines like robotic arms have already replaced some positions, but AI can do even more. By some estimates, today’s machines can handle 70% of the work that 36 million Americans do.

As AI gets more advanced, it can replace more jobs. Switching over to AI can save employers a lot of money, but it can also mean job losses. Without careful implementation, this technology could contribute to higher unemployment levels.

Bias

At first, you may think that computer programs would show less bias than people. As strange as it sounds, though, AI can be even more biased than humans in some cases. Machine learning programs can end up exaggerating the implicit prejudices of their programers.

In 2015, Amazon discovered substantial gender biases in an AI recruiting tool they were developing. Since they had trained it with mostly resumes from men, it taught itself to prefer men over women. If companies don’t catch these flaws, AI could create more inequality wherever it’s used.

Misinformation

As AI improves, it gets better at fooling people. That can be a dangerous characteristic if people use AI for malicious purposes. These systems could work around the clock to produce convincing but false content to spread around the internet.

AI tools like “deepfakes” can fabricate fake pictures, audio and videos that are almost indistinguishable from reality. Power like that carries some threatening implications for things like propaganda. In the age of social media, AI’s potential for spreading misinformation is hard to ignore.

Privacy

Another consequence of the digital age is the growing threat to people’s privacy. When everything is online, you can’t always tell who knows what about you. With AI gathering and analyzing this data, it heightens these concerns.

AI systems are excellent at making accurate connections between seemingly unrelated data points. In some cases, AI can know things about you that you aren’t even aware of through this process. Some people may feel like this is a major breach of privacy, and it could create some security concerns.

Machine Sentience

Right now, AI programs are far from what you would consider sentient. As the technology progresses, though, questions about their rights arise. If a machine can think and feel, does that mean it deserves legal rights like a human?

How do you define sentience, intelligence or even life? While these questions may not apply to today’s AI, people may need to start thinking about them. Technology advances exponentially, so it may not be long before these are relevant concerns.

Balancing AI and Ethics in the Future

AI is a controversial technology, to say the least. As more companies start to use it in more roles, questions about AI and ethics are more relevant. Programmers and businesses will have to start considering these issues as they push the technology further.

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