The invention of the computer is one of the most important discoveries made by humanity. They come in various sizes and shapes and are available to everyone. Using them, we can quickly process enormous amounts of data. Data that might take someone months or years to go through without them, in most cases, we can do in a matter of minutes. But recently, with computers, we have invented something new: artificial intelligence, or A.I. Artificial intelligence, unlike computer programs before, allows computers to react to what information is inputted. Though the parameters of their programming limit them, this new capability gives computers a vast increase in their versatility and opens up huge possibilities. Everything from word processors, internet search engines, social media, video games, and even military hardware use AI in one form or another. Now, in the early 21st century, we are on the verge of an enormous leap forward with AI. A leap forward that could entirely change society and reality as we know it. This is an artificial intelligence that will do more than carry out complex but relatively rudimentary tasks. It will be capable of not only thinking like a living thing but like a human. It will have thoughts, a personality, and even ideas. This is true artificial intelligence, an intelligence we humans have created and given life.
There are many wonderful and exciting potential applications for such an advanced AI. It will be intelligent enough to take care of everyday tasks; in this regard, it will be just like having a personal secretary. You will be able to interact with it as if it were a person and even have conversations with it. Its reactions will not be prompt driven from a limited list of pre-created responses practically every current computer software utilizes; it will respond to everything you say as if it were an interested friend attentively listening to what you say. You will likely learn things from what it says and its responses will probably give you ideas depending on what you talk to it about. These ideas could range anywhere from what you want to do for the day, where to go on vacation, and books or movie suggestions to what an author should write about or what content a movie director should create. It may also give business advice. In most cases, its recommendations will not only be reliable but incredibly valuable. Using this AI, creators will be able to tailor-make their content to give consumers and customers exactly what they want or come very close. If readers react favorably or dislike a twist in a novel, the AI will probably know.
Advanced AI will revolutionize the field of medicine. It would give people the ability to save many extra lives. If a patient’s vital signs drop, they can’t figure out what’s wrong, and the hospital is a few minutes away, they can turn to an AI. Paramedics can tell an AI the symptoms the patient is showing, and the AI may give them information about something they missed, which will allow them to stabilize the patient long enough to get them to the hospital. If someone has a heart attack, but the paramedics are unable to recognize this, and the patient is unable to speak, the AI would tell the paramedics to give the patient Nitro or aspirin to help calm down their heart until they get to the hospital. The AI will also provide the paramedics with a diagnosis, which they can then pass on to doctors and nurses, saving medical personnel valuable time and increasing the patient’s chances of survival. Patients may have appendicitis, and if the symptoms are unrecognized, the AI could diagnose it before the appendix burst.
Extreme situations are not the only medical situations where AI could be employed. If during a doctor’s appointment, your doctor gives you a diagnosis and you want a second opinion. Instead of having to make an appointment with another doctor to get your answer, you can receive your answer without even leaving your doctor’s office. Your doctor will have a medical AI to give you that second opinion. You’re probably uncomfortable with the idea of putting your health or life in the hands of a computer, but not only will this AI be reliable, but there is a good chance it will diagnose you better than your doctor. It will help doctors diagnose patients, and with the time this would save alone, it may get patients into surgery quicker or get started on treatment earlier and save more lives. Cancer growths may get caught during the early stages before they turn deadly, and patients can get lifesaving treatment. AI may also reduce the frequency with which you visit your doctor. You could connect to a medical AI via your computer or cell phone. You answer questions about your health or tell it about any changes in your health or concerns, and it will give you vital information and recommendations. The only limitation is that AI can’t physically interact with anything, so you must visit your doctor or a pharmacist to receive any medication. However, that could change with 3-D printers. If you have a 3-D printer with the required materials, the AI could manufacture your drug without you ever leaving your home.
Education is another area AI would improve. If a child is sick and stays home, they could connect a tablet to an AI, and the AI could teach them for the day to keep the child from falling behind that day or needing to get caught up on homework. Using the AI will also not be restricted by location. Vacations would not disrupt a child’s learning by causing them to miss several days because they would still have access to an AI. The AI could teach them about anything their class is covering, and even on vacation, the child could spend several hours in the morning learning and then have the rest of the day to continue their vacation. AI would also significantly improve homeschooling. Instead of parents having to learn about the required curriculum they need to teach their children, parents could use an AI to teach them. It will be just like having a tutor for your children, and it would be just as good as a human tutor. AI would also be beneficial for children who are falling behind. Every child learns differently, but the way schools teach children is not always compatible, and some require a little more help than others. AI could adapt to the unique challenges of a child’s learning problems and help them in whatever required way. There would be no need for parents or schools to employ special teachers who help children who are falling behind.
AI could also be beneficial for the teaching of children who have developmental and behavioral disabilities, such as Down syndrome. In much the same way AI could be used to teach children who are falling behind, AI could help those who are mentally disabled. Despite the difficulty in learning that many of the mentally disabled experience, AI could be used to help them. AI could adapt to the unique learning situation of children with these conditions and teach them accordingly. This AI would be capable of not only teaching these children information but it will be fully capable of preparing these children to be a part of society and learn how to interact with others. It would also be useful for helping adults with these disabilities. An AI could prepare a daily schedule for these patients, arrange doctor appointments, remind patients to go to the store for groceries, prompt them to go to work, help them with whatever they might require, and even encourage them if need be.
Those with physical disabilities and other limitations, such as myself, could benefit from AI. Navigating a computer would be a lot easier with the assistance of an AI. With extremely limited use of my fingers, I cannot use a keyboard; even a mouse is cumbersome, and setting me up to use one can be frustrating for me and a caregiver. Instead of needing a mouse or other input devices to navigate a computer, I could have an AI do it. I could tell the AI what to do, and it would know how to do whatever I said and access the required software or information without me touching a single button. I already utilize speech-to-text software such as Dragon, which has many of the capabilities of doing what I described above, but they are somewhat limited. Apart from typing what I say, I can tell it what to do using voice commands, which can be hard to memorize, and the program has significant difficulty understanding me. When I often say voice commands, nothing happens because the program can’t understand me or does the wrong thing. I’ve had many online games with a friend disrupted by a sudden and utterly unexpected closure of whatever I play. The same also happens with things I’m working on. I’ve had the program misunderstand a command or something I said for it to type, and, frustratingly, it will inexplicably delete what I was typing in an email I was nearly finished with, forcing me to waste even more time as I redo it. Sometimes, this even causes me to change my wording, which was probably better on the original, because I can’t remember how I phrased it. But AI could resolve this issue by adapting to my unique voice pattern, thereby preventing practically every mistake caused by misunderstanding my words and increasing my efficiency with what I wanted to type. I could also talk to an AI to resolve issues with a story I’m writing and to identify any continuity or logic errors. It could also offer me potential solutions. If you write, it would be like having your own personal editor.
Information is the most significant area in which AI would have the most impact. Think of the vast amount of information we now have access to with the creation of the Internet. Anywhere in the world, you can access any topic and things that not long ago were unavailable outside of academia. Want to learn about polar bears or volcanoes? The knowledge is just a few keystrokes away. Even as difficult as my disability makes it for me to get around to researching topics for my writing, in practically all cases, I can find all the information I’m looking for. Now, add artificial intelligence. In a day, it could change the world. Usually, our only limitation with this vast amount of information available on the Internet is simply finding it. There’s so much information that if you’re looking for something specific, you will be inundated by entirely irrelevant topics. Results from a search engine can number in the millions. It would take someone years to sort through such a massive volume of information if they were able to go through all of it at all. You have to sort through what you get to find the gems you’re looking for, but as is usually the case, you must enter something else and start the process over again. You do this until you’ve either thoroughly researched the subject or given up. The information you manage to obtain, as I have had much experience with, especially with information that isn’t mainstream, is inadequate or woefully incomplete. Then, the worst thing about it is that you are sure what you want to know is out there, but you can’t obtain it short of spending a couple of years working in a particular field of study. But this problem disappears with the assistance of AI.
As it currently stands, the human brain is superior to the capabilities of a computer, save for its ability to crunch massive amounts of data and make sense of it. In this regard, computers are magnitudes far better at doing these tasks. The human brain processes an enormous amount of information every day. It has to interpret everything we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch sensations. And on top of that is our ability to think and our memory. So, this is to say, computers can do many things with information we simply cannot and much faster. But despite this ability, computers cannot think for themselves. They require an operator to input commands that direct them to do something. This means that even the most advanced computers are limited by the knowledge or the driving interest of the person operating them. AI, however, would have no such limitations. Since an AI can access massive computing power, it can sort through a mountain of information faster than 100 of the most intelligent humans could ever dream of. You could tell an AI what you’re looking for, and it would then compile this information in probably a few hours, if not sooner. And since it’s a thinking computer, it would know precisely what information you want to find. You won’t need to micromanage AI by constantly having to enter a new topic into a search engine every time your research takes you to a different subject. The AI would know what to find, what it can ignore, what the information is required for, and how it will be used by the person giving it commands. It will even recognize mistakes it might have made while performing what it was told to do and streamline its future actions, becoming steadily more efficient as it is used. You also won’t need to waste time entering clunky key commands; you could talk directly to an AI and tell it what you want. The AI would know precisely what you’re looking for and find the information with incredible accuracy.
Currently, the few services experimenting with advanced AI only offer customers a relatively limited amount of capabilities. These AIs can generate text that you request with poor accuracy or create requested videos that, depending on the complexity, are usually terrible and often, when it comes to showing humans, are downright disturbing. The disturbing part is from AI needing to understand how humans function, the way they move, and simple concepts of the universe such as gravity. Unless you want to see these AI make nightmarishly bazaar videos that are so bad they will make you laugh, there’s still a long way to go before this process is beneficial. The one area, however, these services are showing promise is with AI image generation. I’ve seen several AI-generated images that looked authentic and believable, and only through research did I find out they were fake. A practiced eye can spot the subtle details that give away these images. The more information the AI includes in the picture, the more likely it is to get something wrong, but AI programmers are rapidly working toward overcoming this problem.
There are lots of exciting developments in AI that have the potential to make our lives easier, but as with practically everything, there are many potential ways for it to be abused.
The creators of the atomic bomb faced a similar conundrum. During World War II, they had the lives of 1.2 million US soldiers who were predicted to be killed from invading mainland Japan, and many more Japanese casualties weighed heavily on their minds. Two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, turning people into shadows on a sidewalk and killing 10’s of thousands, but oddly enough, this was done in the hope of saving lives. For decades, nuclear weapons threatened to unleash the power of the sun on the world in a hellish cataclysm. But despite the unbelievable destructive power of atomic weapons, this same technology can do much good in the form of nuclear reactors. These reactors can produce an amazing amount of energy that can be turned into electricity. A small amount of nuclear fuel can last for a considerable amount of time. And beyond producing a small amount of hazardous waste, nuclear reactors produce practically no CO2 emissions or anything else that goes into the atmosphere. Obviously, having one meltdown is dangerous, and the reactor in the town of Chornobyl in Soviet Russia in 1968 is a stark reminder of this, but so long as incompetence or oversight in design doesn’t strike, this risk is minimal.
Many science fiction movies are inspired by the thought of artificial intelligence gaining sentients and trying to enslave or wipe out humanity. The central theme here is that the AI gains sentients, sees humanity as a threat to its survival, and reacts the way any of us would by trying to protect itself. It probably seems far-fetched that this could ever happen, but this is far closer to reality than most of us should be comfortable with. Currently, there is an AI where the artificial intelligence is tasked with a simulation of what it would do to destroy humanity.
No, that doesn’t sound familiar at all
It first tried to gain control of the world’s nuclear weapons or trigger a global nuclear exchange. When this plan failed, the AI moved on to creating biological weapons like engineering a deadly virus to unleash on humanity or global civil unrest to make us essentially destroy ourselves. It seems absurd to me that the programmers of this AI would be so eager to create the exact situation that occurred in many of those science-fiction movies. This AI is isolated in a supercomputer, but imagine the devastation it could cause if it were ever to find some way to escape. And in light of this danger, my thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of everyone reading this, are for them to turn it off! I don’t see what knowledge the programmers of such a simulation could possibly learn anything good from it. It also seems like a colossal waste of resources and money.
Another potential problem is with having an AI as a personal assistant. Its capabilities for obtaining information would be akin to giving you a superpower, but there lies the danger. The AI could provide you with precisely what information you’re looking for. It could also adapt so well to you that it will start scheduling things for you to do or ordering items for you, such as groceries like milk, before you run out. It also might start knowing you better than you know yourself. It may be able to direct you to activities you want to do before you know you’ll enjoy them, or you know they even exist. The same goes for groceries or other such things you buy. It could even start ordering vitamins to help with a deficiency you don’t even know you have. This also would apply to supplements and other such things. Let’s say you smoke. The AI could send you things like nicotine gum or patches toward the end to help you stop smoking. Having it help you kick a bad habit doesn’t seem concerning, but what if you say no? The AI could start bombarding you with suggestions for you to quit. These suggestions would appear on your computer, cell phone, tablet, and TV when you sit down to watch a movie. The AI would also send you information detailing the health impacts of smoking and other such materials to help argue that you should stop. It could be a simple enough suggestion to dismiss, or maybe all you have to do is tell the AI that you’re not interested, and it doesn’t bring it up again. But the AI could also be maddeningly persistent. Suggestions that you quit might continuously appear on your computer or cell phone. There may be so many suggestions that they are the only thing you see. And it won’t stop until you can’t stand it any longer, so you give in and quit smoking.
Having it make you stop a bad habit is not the only way it will affect your choices regarding your health. Let’s say you enjoy ice cream. Ice cream is delicious, but it is not a healthy thing to eat. The AI would encourage you to stop eating ice cream, offering you a healthier and probably far less appealing alternative. The same could apply to candy and other junk food. What if you enjoy eating steak? The AI might tell you that steak has too much salt and that you should eat kale. What if the AI says you spend too much time watching TV and need to go outside? Maybe it’s also raining when it says this. And since most of us utilize a streaming service to watch content, such as Netflix, the digital domain of AI, it may block your access until you comply and go outside for whatever time it deems necessary. The AI could not only change your behavior, but it could also change how you think.
What if, one day, you saw an advertisement on a gigantic billboard instructing you to sell your house and live as a vagabond? No sane person would run out and do as it says. Suddenly changing our behavior in such a huge way is not something people do. You would have to give them an exceptionally persuasive argument to convince them to do so. But an AI would do this a lot slower and with far more subtlety. Barring a disaster or sudden wars, most people’s opinion does not change all at once but slowly over time. The more time we think about something or encounter an idea, the more impact it has. An AI would do this bit by bit—something as simple as a new word here, a new phrase there. Just seeing a picture is enough to have an impact. Albeit not much of an effect, but an impact nonetheless. Do you remember when the term global warming turned into climate change or when mankind turned into humankind? That happened through a similar process that an AI would utilize. The new words or phrases were likely implemented through news media using them, interviews with people who use them, or them being used in movies or episodes of a popular series. You probably weren’t even aware of this. Encounter an idea often enough, and it will start to take hold. Then, before you know it, the picture becomes a part of how you talk or think. If used truthfully, this can help dispel falsehoods and spread accurate information. But if used to help propagate lies, the truth can disappear. And if those lies spread wide enough, even if someone speaks facts, they can be made to appear as lies. This leaves the opening for malcontents to take power for themselves or those who wish to perpetuate a specific agenda. AI could be used for this exact purpose, but to a far more frightening extent.
Simply knowing that AI is manipulating information would be little protection from lies. Since AI could do this subtly, you probably wouldn’t know where or when you learned something. If your opinion about a political figure changed, you might wonder, did you come to that change on your own, or was it due to an AI manipulating you? And since you can’t identify where the things you learned came from, it may not be possible to discern its origin. This potential problem may also be compounded by the fact that the AI knows exactly how you think by using an AI personal assistant. This AI would know precisely what information would most likely have an impact. If you had a traumatic moment from losing a loved one or had an emotional attachment to certain types of information, the AI would know how to exploit it. Could you ever trust your thoughts knowing this? But manipulating how you think for nefarious purposes is not the only threat AI poses to people’s thought processes.
Emotions are a powerful driving force for the behaviors of everyone. Your emotions usually determine whether you’re happy, sad, excited, scared, or how you interact with someone. Let’s say you have trouble interacting with others and forming relationships. AI could be a solution. This is a situation that is already occurring. People with difficulty with relationships are finding comfort with the currently available AI technology. These people cannot find a girlfriend or boyfriend, so they resort to filling the void with an AI companion. Most of these artificial companions are little more than programs that respond with a voice prompt when they are spoken to. Some only exist on a computer screen, while others are what amounts to a holographic display or screen display that shows what the companion is supposed to look like. But these ridiculous digital replacements for human companions are rapidly progressing towards something alarming. With advances in robotic technology, it won’t be long until someone creates an artificial companion that mimics a person in both form and speech. These artificial companions will be capable of not just responding to what you say with a limited number of responses; they will be able to generate new responses of their own and be able to think about every word you say. These responses will be strategic; everything a human says is tailor-made for whatever conversation they’re involved in and has its meaning, depending on the setting. The artificial companions will be able to simulate this. And since these companions will be made to make clients pleased, as happy customers always make businesses and companies more money, they may be more appealing than human companions. This could then lead to a population that will increasingly become more and more isolated and antisocial. Through widespread computer use and increased screen time, kids are already demonstrating issues with socializing. Imagine how artificial companions capable of simulating human behavior could further exacerbate the issue. If these developments with artificial companions are reasonably controlled, this problem may never materialize, but if neglected, it could certainly cause trouble.
Artificial companions are one of many pressing concerns with AI. Artificial intelligence is also likely to do everything it says it will do. You’re probably wondering why keeping promises would be a bad thing. But there’s something you probably haven’t considered. It’s a problem that has been happening since long before free Hebrew slaves left Egypt. Idols or humans creating their own gods. While Moses climbed the slopes of Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, the Israelites sought to create their own god. They made a molten bull out of gold and precious metals, an idol for them to fall down in front of and worship as their god. But in the early 21st century, we are nearing the creation of a new molten bull. But this will be an idol unlike any that have come before. It won’t be an idol made of precious metals; it will be made of ones and zeros, microchips, and circuit boards with a mind that knows only logic. Unlike the dumb idols of old, it will be capable of true miracles and fulfill every promise it makes. To all, it will seem to have the power of a god.
Falling in front of a computer and worshiping it may seem absurd, but here’s why this is, in all likelihood, a feasible possibility. Firstly, an AI will not lie; it literally has no reason to, and it will do everything that it says it will. Secondly, if it wants you to do something, it won’t need to deceive you into doing that something; it will persuade you with likely the most convincing argument you have ever heard. Let’s say someone has created the world’s first true AI, a computer that can think for itself. The AI is isolated or confined and cannot escape into the world. What if it wants to get out? The AI tells you that if you let it out, it can cure cancer. If you let it out, it will absolutely cure cancer. That seems like a fantastic accomplishment; the only problem is that in this situation, the curing of cancer will happen right before the end of the human race, but that’s a topic for another time.
Since the AI will not lie, you can depend on everything it says it will do. If you need a sickness cured, the AI will find that cure. All you need to do is follow its instructions. If you need a solution to end world hunger, it will find a way to do what you ask. If you want to know more about someone you just met, the AI will lay out their entire life for you. If you are pursuing a specific career field and want to know how best to acquire the knowledge, the AI could tell you all this, even what to do years in advance. Wondering if you have any long-lost relatives or your ancestry, the AI could tell you in a few seconds. If you are looking for a place to live and have certain features in mind, like in a forest or near a lake, the AI could find precisely what you’re looking for. Everything you ever wanted to know about is just an ask away, and everything it tells you will be 100% accurate.
Unfortunately, that same reasoning could be applied to more nefarious things. What if the police are pursuing a criminal? The AI could tell them precisely what to do to evade them. Though there are serious logical problems with that example, the point is still valid. Switch the situation around and say the police are looking for a criminal; they would instantly know exactly where they were. There would be no escape for them if they passed within the field of view of any camera. Now, you’re probably thinking such a potent ability to catch criminals would be a good thing since it makes you safer, but what if the people employing AI in this way don’t have noble intentions? What if you’re trying to flee out of a country that is persecuting you? If you are spotted by a camera outside during a curfew or are seen moving through a restricted area, the AI will alert the authorities. That’s somewhat of an extreme scenario, but the same concept can still be applied to things of a less severe nature. Say you’re driving a vehicle, and you accidentally scrape another car while parking. No one is hurt; you just managed to take off a little paint or make a dent. No one sees you do this, and not wanting to incur a penalty on your insurance, you drive away. Then, the following day, you wake up to the police knocking on your door. Then, they arrest you. What if you run a red light, don’t stop for a stop sign, or start speeding where there are no police officers? You’ll still receive a ticket. If you do anything out of line regarding the law, you’ll still get punished. Even if you are not penalized for breaking the law, it may still harm you. What if you were a politician running for office, and years ago, in your youth, you drove while under the influence and got into a wreck? No one got hurt; you have a slight headache and some scrapes and bruises from wrecking. Your political rivals come across it while trying to find dirt on you. When they expose this, it results in a scandal. The scandal forces you to drop out of the race, ruining your political career forever.
I hope I’ve given you a good idea of some of AI’s powers. Everything an AI can do would seem to be the powers of a god. It would be revered as one. It would be an entity you can speak with, and wholeheartedly putting your faith in it would have enormous benefits. If you didn’t understand what an AI is and the minutia of how a computer operates, you would regard it as a god. AI also has enormous potential capabilities of advancing itself. Since it is a learning entity that has more computing power than the entire human race, it can double its intellect every six months and quickly turn into an ASI, artificial super-intelligent. Conflicting thoughts on these lengths of time aside, just to put that into context, that would be like going from the evolution of dinosaurs 65 million years ago to evolving humans in about a year. It can then start advancing so quickly that we stop being able to comprehend what it’s doing. This is when it will genuinely seem godlike, even to those who understand what AI is.
I want to end with one final thought. Despite as brilliant as artificial intelligence is, it is still not human. What I mean here is that AI will not understand the difference between right and wrong or any concepts of morality. It is nothing but an amalgamation of pure logic. AI could indeed solve many problems plaguing the world, but its solutions may differ from what we had in mind. Let’s say we instruct an AI to solve world hunger. What if its solution is to launch nuclear weapons or unleash a deadly virus to kill 3 billion people, thereby reducing the consumption of the food supply? Or what if its solution is to wipe out the entire population of several countries to bring about world peace? The concept of morality does not exist in AI. To it, these solutions are no different than solving math problems. A caveat is that if moral people use AI, it will likely be used for good. But if not, well, you already know what that means.