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Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to take over the jobs of more than 1.2 million employees in the banking and lending fields by 2030, according to Autonomous Research (2018). AI stands for the design of computer technology that can perform tasks commonly requiring human intelligence. Those include but are not limited to learning, problem-solving, language processing, and perception. AI gradually assuming tasks that were once only associated with human beings has led to many arguing that a future with developed AI technologies poses a threat on many levels. This paper, therefore, will tackle the negative impact of the unethical use of AI in various fields. It will show how this technology affects our daily lives, starting from our jobs down to our very sense of purpose. With its rise, how will AI affect the employment and political fields? What threats does it pose on our economy? And are these consequences ethical?
An article by Kofas (2017) shows the negative impact of AI on employment rates. It includes a report issued by the White House in 2016 stating that although AI will lead to higher productivity levels, it will take over millions of employment opportunities previously held by humans. This prompted Neilson (2017) to question how people will survive in a future where they are replaced by robots. This is even witnessed now, as fast food chains are gradually assigning machines with tasks such as taking orders. This does not only put the jobs of millions of workers at stake but also threatens their salaries. Given that some simple tasks can be performed by robots; employees would face the choice of either accepting lower wages or joining the unemployed. In fact, 14% of employees have already lost their jobs for robots. Double that number and you will get 32% of employees threatened with being replaced by AI. This was concluded by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in an article by West (2018). If this is currently happening while we still haven’t reached the highest levels of automation, what will a future with more developed technologies hide? This is what employees are mostly concerned about.
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In fact, a research paper by Cath, Wachter, Mittelstadt, Taddeo, and Floridi (2018) shows that 48% of people who filled the questionnaires expressed their fear of being replaced with robots within the coming 10 years. Studies, unfortunately, cannot comfort them. In his article, Roff (2014) actually reports a study by the Pew Research Internet Project showing that a significant number of workers who perform manual labor are expected to be replaced by robots by 2025. Despite the unethical aspect accompanying this practice, isn’t it believable that employers would favor their personal interests over those of employees? According to Mr. Varlan, a chief economist for Google, robots are faster and cheaper than humans. On the long run, this will further prompt companies to resort to them instead of hiring employees who will cause them unnecessary costs. Now, what will all these unemployed individuals do? How will they spend their time? The problem is not only financial, but is also related to the sense of purpose a job brings to humans. Some might think that these robots need human beings to program them. While this is true for now, the job market cannot accommodate whole generations of programmers. Even if it does, an article by Green (2017) states that even AI programming might have partially automated features in the years to come. How will all the unemployed people spend their days then? How will they feel useful? All the financial struggle and lack of purpose imposed by AI taking over the job market cannot reflect a much ethical society. This might incite the unemployed to commit unethical acts ranging from theft to crime, either to meet their needs or to satisfy their sense of purpose. Such threats can be avoided according to Keating and Nourbakhsh in their article (2018) tackling IBM Watson, a question-answering computer system. They believe that when it comes to giving medical recommendations, for example, a computer must learn and analyze medical information. Doesn’t this require financing and efforts? If so, why don’t we exert these efforts to improve the performance of humans themselves? Among other fields such as education and law, medicine requires ethics as much as scientific knowledge. Bearing this in mind, focusing our attention on bettering our human capital instead of robots will not only limit the expected unemployment rates, but would also serve society as a whole.
Unemployment is not the only threat posed by AI technologies. An article by Kofas (2017) shows the consequences of AI on politics and civil rights. Experts actually believe that governments are likely to replace humans with robots as they are “smarter and less biased”. The danger of such technologies does not lie in calculating the votes after elections, for example. It emerges when political parties start using them to formulate predictions of messages that would trigger certain reactions from various groups in society. These parties can input all the required data in the said machine and predict the reactions of the public, somewhat hindering them from the right of expressing their opinions. According to a study by Balaram, Greenham, and Lenonard (2018), such practices would be “eliminating the people’s voice”. But isn’t democracy based on those people? This is why eliminating their voice would eliminate democracy as a whole. In this case, we are still assuming that the public can think for itself. But what would happen when this public is so used to AI making its decisions, that it becomes less experienced in making political decisions? In his article, Green (2017) shows how we can lose our critical political thinking through constant reliance on AI. Take pilots for example. Although planes have autopilot features, pilots still take the wheel in critical situations; not because the machines cannot handle that on their own, but in order for them to keep in mind the skills they had learned. According to Roff (2014), AI will lead to chaos and turbulence in the coming decades. An example would be parties blaming each other for unemployment, poverty, disorder, and other consequences of AI. This would cause a political outburst, which will in turn negatively impact voting behaviors and the people’s trust in their governments. The very foundations of democracy would therefore crumble, potentially leading to political extremism. A research paper by Cath, Wachter, Mittelstadt, Taddeo, and Floridi (2018) states that AI should only be used to assist the people in making political decisions instead of taking this right away from them. Democracy is based on making decisions with the public, not for the public. On that basis, carrying out public dialogue and surveys to reach conditions under which AI should be used would be a good common ground. AI would be used responsibly while guaranteeing the rights of all parties concerned and hindering unnecessary chaos.
Furthermore, the consequences of the unethical use of AI can greatly impact our economy and stability. Despite the great economic growth that is likely to accompany AI, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that this growth will not be evenly distributed between the members of society. In his article, Kofas (2017) compares the rise of AI to the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century that resulted in further development for the already rich while further exploiting the already poor. In other words, the wealth produced by AI will be unevenly distributed, hence widening the gap between the higher and lower classes. This polarization will lead to the shrinking of the middle class as well. Considered the stabilizing force in politics, the reduction of this class will also shake up economic stability. According to West (2018), an inevitable economic recession is expected by 2030. Although production costs will decrease leading to a general decrease in prices, the unemployed will not be earning any money to benefit from this so-called advantage. Meanwhile, Green (2017) believes that employers would be saving the money they would have otherwise been paying for employees, further increasing their wealth on the account of the now-unemployed. Once again, the question of where this category will find a source of income to meet its needs resurfaces. In his article, Green (2017) quotes Mark Zuckerberg’s suggestion of a universal basic income to face this crisis. As its title implies, this system would provide a basic monthly amount for every single citizen. This would ease the transition phase many employees will likely face in the years to come, increase their sense of security, and appease their concerns regarding an AI-dominated future.
To wrap up, the rise of AI has invaded our world bearing challenges on multiple levels. Be it employment rates, politics, civil rights, or economy, no aspect of society is expected to remain as is. Siri, Alexa, Netflix, autopilots, smart plagiarism checkers, mobile check deposits, and Google maps are just a few examples of AI technologies we use in our daily lives. Although they might not sound like a threat, the increased use and development of AI is already proving the opposite. Although the disadvantages of AI discussed throughout paper outweigh its advantages, it should be noted that such studies should also shed light on the positive impact of these technologies and present ways in which we could use them for our benefit. Why not save the time consumed on studying the negative impacts of AI and use it to raise awareness on possible suggestions to reap their utmost benefits? The mentioned articles and research papers also tackled the issue of AI from the perspective of developed countries without really focusing on the developing ones, although the latter might be the ones to mostly suffer from such consequences. We, as human beings, are characterized by our ability to think and question the world around us. This has long been an asset that sets us apart from all other animate or inanimate beings. But what if we create something that challenges this distinguished ability? What if we give this power to a creation of our own?
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