“AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity – if AI has a goal and humanity just happens to come in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it, no hard feelings.”

                                                        – Elon Musk

Sania Muzamil

The advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its promotion in taking over key activities of the human mind has become a recent cause for concern. AI in its current form has the potential to transform the way human world functions. The U.S presidential election of 2016 where Donald Trump emerged victorious has been under the radar for alleged use by the Republicans of AI/ Social media to manipulate the users into voting for Trump. This is done by directing the users’ social media algorithm that in turn helps modulate their behavior to give the desired results. Such events are symbolic of a larger catastrophe- that of a clash of human and artificial intelligence. We might in fact be heading towards an era in which AI surpasses the human mind. As the boundary between human and android/AI gradually blurs, several social and ethical philosophers warn of the drastic consequences careless AI development might result in and advocate caution and wisdom to maintain the fine balance.

Absolute Emotional Dependence on AI

Described as self deception by the philosopher Thomas Metzinger, unchecked emotional reliance on AI/any form of virtual reality- Chatbots, Social media, humanoids/robots, VR Gaming etc. harbors the dangers of illusionary mindsets and complete disconnection with reality. The line between real and virtual has been fading away and it’s hard to find an anchor to hold on to while navigating through the world highly powered by AI. This impact will again be gendered in nature, affecting children and teenagers, people with mental health issues and other vulnerable groups more.

AI warfare

Advancement in AI can lead to cheap modes of arms and weapons. A drone could be used to murder someone and then self-destruct. It could also be used to wage war through bio warfare. Highly advanced AI without ethical checks could reach a stage where it could surpass human intelligence and make humans subordinate to machines. People from developing countries with lesser economic stability, conflict zones, women and children and people from marginalized and minority communities can become easy targets of AI warfare.

Surveillance and control

AI is being employed for mass surveillance with no regard to individual privacy and consent. Technologies like facial recognition, bioinformatics etc. although useful are intrusive in nature. State control and clampdown on free democratic expression is being done with the help of surveillance technologies. State sponsored surveillance is becoming an imminent threat to minority groups/religious communities, political and social activists, journalists and academicians whose voices are stifled and draconian acts thrown at them. This feature of AI is also causing a gendered impact in the human society.

The threats that unregulated AI development poses also hinge on the fact that AI imitates human intelligence. What makes AI so potentially dangerous is its inability to gauge the contexts in which certain decisions are taken by the human mind. Hence although it can manufacture everything human, even emotions, it cannot experience and trace these emotions. Caring AI sounds like juxtaposition and it is. This poses the question whether AI can successfully function in human societies that are already falling apart due to differences in class, caste, ideology etc. Can a machine that treats emotions as mere information in its database be capable of feeling for those with specific needs and requirements? What happens if at some point these machines become so independent and automated that they start bypassing human commands? Does the human race face a threat of extinction by a technology they themselves generated?

These questions need to be asked and answered before advancing AI further because the threat might already have transformed into reality and we might still be unaware of it. AI might be used as a potential tool to eradicate corruption and biases that come along with human minds, but it can also be dangerous if used in a biased and gendered manner.

Sania advocates for equal gender and human rights, and calls for a free world for all. She has a postgraduate degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi and is currently studying and researching Gender perceptions and manifestations. She is currently interning at kractivist.org