From Google translation to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, we are surrounded by products powered by AI without even realizing it. Translation, voice recognition, and classifying images and videos are some of the first areas of experimentation and progress. While the idea has been around for decades, AI, and especially its subset machine learning, is gaining popularity because of the explosion in data and increasing computational power nowadays that allows computers to improve their function with experience.
AI is capable of making huge social impacts particularly in education, healthcare and the energy sector. In education, AI might change the education system in a way that the courses would be tailored based on every student’s characteristics and abilities, making individualized syllabi possible.
Evolved from the study of pattern recognition and computational learning theory in artificial intelligence, machine learning explores the study and construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions about data. In healthcare, machine learning could enhance the accuracy of the diagnosis significantly and predict trends in epidemics. According to recent studies, machine learning can diagnose irregular heart rhythms from an ECG better than a cardiologist can, and Google’s algorithm identified diabetic blindness better than an ophthalmologist could.
With AI, the energy sector is ready for changing for the better in the face of climate change. Spokane, WA is already testing if AI could effectively reduce car emissions by controlling street traffic lights, In addition, power usage can be optimized and regulated based on demand.
Despite the feats AI has achieved, it has also given rise to negative reactions. The future of AI still remains indefinite and its impact on society remains uncertain. People are concerned about the extent machines can replace human beings, and question whether increasing automation will result in increased well-being for the general population. Although the fear is well-founded and some repetitive tasks would be automated, more jobs would be created in sectors requiring human interaction and creativity. To avoid a large scope of job loses and even economic stagnation, efforts need to be made with respect to education, to prepare new generations of workers for jobs transformed by artificial intelligence and to prepare many more workers for the humane activities of care giving and life enhancement for all age groups.
The ultimate rule of thumb is to make sure that machines would continue to serve human beings: people should benefit from machines instead of competing with or being subservient to them. In other words, the implications are that new technology must improve working capacity and conditions by relieving people from mundane tasks and by performing data organization and utilization beyond the capacity of human beings. But at the same time, human beings must, no matter what, always retain decision-making power over machines.
Written by Yuwei Fan & Edited by Alexander Fleiss
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