Technology described as artificial intelligence is becoming more pervasive, with AI algorithms transforming science and industry, along with our everyday lives. They can rapidly analyse and classify all manner of data. They can generate passages of text and produce realistic images. They are used to design medicines, to autonomously drive cars. They are our tour guides through the vast collection of information on the web. They observe us to suggest products to purchase, movies to watch and music to hear. They keep a watchful eye on us through cameras at supermarket self-checkouts. And their scope of application is only widening—increasingly, we are interacting with AI without knowing it.
But what is AI really? Is it truly intelligent? Is it always a benignly useful modern-world companion? Not if we consider the increasing volume of AI-enabled criminal activity, or the ethical dilemmas posed by the use of AI-powered weaponry. Further, examples already exist showing that the careless use of AI can lead to the exacerbation of social inequalities.
AI systems, no matter how complex their workings or impressive their abilities, are the product of deliberate human design—not just the design of algorithms, but also strategies for sourcing and managing the massive quantities of data on which they operate. But it’s not just the creators of AI who need to think about the impact of the technology. Given its ramifications, all of us need to start thinking about how we want to live with AI.