AI for the better is part of human endeavour



At the centre of the Hollywood writers’ strike is the fear of the potential role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in cinema and streaming – in short, ask AI chatbot ChatGPT to write the next box-office smash, or use AI to create crowd shots and so ‘extras’ no longer need to be hired and paid.

Legitimate concerns aside, to read the headlines generally there seems to be a growing fear of what AI will mean for – and to – us, and indeed the future of human kind. I contend such fear is unfounded. Most movies about AI have an ‘us versus them’ mentality, but that’s not the case. This is not an alien invasion of intelligent machines; it’s the result of our own efforts to make our infrastructure and our way of life more intelligent. It’s part of human endeavour.

We merge with our machines. Ultimately, they will extend who we are. Already, our mobile phones make us able to communicate with each other on a much better basis. It’s part of us. It might not be literally connected to you, but nobody leaves home without one.

The scientific consensus is that, with AI, everything’s going to improve. We will be able to cure cancer and heart disease, and so on, using simulated biology – and extend our lives. The average life expectancy back in the 1800s was 30; it was 48 in 1900; it’s now pushing 80. Scientists are predicting each decade will push longevity further out with what AI can bring to the medical world.

Admittedly, the advancement of AI will mean certain jobs will inevitably become redundant or taken over by robots but AI will just as equally see the creation of new jobs and new opportunities.

This week comes the news of a major breakthrough in the treatment of cancer, aided by AI, announced by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital in the US.

AI will continue evolving and will, arguably, revolutionise industries ranging from healthcare and transportation to entertainment and education.

With the growing concern for climate change, there is now a significant focus on renewable energy sources. Advancements in solar, wind and energy storage technologies can lead to a more sustainable and cleaner future. One role AI can play in climate action is distilling raw data into useful information – taking big datasets, which would take too much time for a human to process, and pulling information out in real time to guide policy or private-sector action. For example, taking satellite imagery and picking out where deforestation is happening, how biodiversity is changing, where coastal communities are at risk from flooding. These kinds of tools are already being used by organisations like the UN.

Advances in gene editing technologies will revolutionise healthcare. Personalised medicine based on an individual’s genetic makeup will become more common, allowing for more personal, targeted treatments and improved disease prevention. Meanwhile, what is termed Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) – powered by AI – could enable direct communication between the human brain and machines, leading to advancements in prosthetics, virtual reality, and even the potential for enhancing cognitive abilities.

The so-coined Internet of Things (IoT) – which mainly just refers to devices or machines that connect to the internet – will likely continue to expand, connecting various devices and systems, leading to improved automation, efficiency, and connectivity in areas such as smart cities, transportation, and healthcare.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are expected to advance significantly, transforming how we interact with digital content, entertainment, and education. These technologies could also have applications in training, therapy, and remote collaboration. Also, robotics and automation will lead to improved capabilities in areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, and science itself, with the use of what are collaborative robots and autonomous vehicles. This too will help, hopefully, address the growing global population and environmental challenges, with an increased focus on sustainable farming practices, lab-grown meat alternatives and innovative food production.

All this said, I concede that the scientific predictions and my ‘reading’ of them are just that, and are dependent on a number of factors in the next decade or two. Scientific predictions are always speculative and subject to change, based on scientific discoveries, societal needs, economic conditions, and unforeseen breakthroughs

The future is full of possibilities, and that is exciting. However, if the wrong people take control of AI that could be bad news for the rest of us, so we really need to keep an eye on things.

Meantime, I suspect a ChatBot will sometime soon be writing this column…

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