You know that I’m a fan of Artificial Intelligence (AI). I am convinced that it will save us time by taking away the repetitive tasks that fill our days, freeing us up so that we can do things that we are better at and provide more value to us and our employers.
AI has had significant advancements in the past few years, with virtually everyone is giving ChatGPT a spin to see what it can do. It’s used in our shopping (Amazon), entertainment (Netflix), households (Nest Thermostats), and cars (Waze) and has crept into virtually every online chatbot.
But it is far from perfect. While I see many advantages, I am very aware of AI’s ethical concerns. We need to make sure we are using it responsibly.
To simplify, AI is a field of computer science that aims to create intelligent machines that can perform tasks without human intervention. The goal is to develop machines that can replicate human intelligence and perform tasks typically associated with human intelligence, such as learning, problem-solving, and decision-making.
AI has become increasingly important because it can potentially transform numerous industries, including healthcare, finance, and transportation. For example, AI can be used to analyze medical data and assist doctors in diagnosing patients, predict stock prices and make investment decisions, and enhance transportation safety by identifying potential hazards and improving routing.
However, the development and use of AI also raise ethical concerns. As machines become more intelligent, they may displace human workers and lead to job losses. In addition, using AI in decision-making processes, such as hiring or lending, can lead to potential biases and discrimination.
The AI applications are increasing day by day. Some of the industries where AI is making significant progress include:
- Healthcare: AI is used to perform image analysis, identify abnormalities, and assist doctors in diagnosing medical conditions accurately. It is also used in drug discovery to develop new medicines.
- Finance: AI can be utilized in fraud detection, risk management, and automated trading. It can predict stock prices and make investment decisions using advanced algorithms.
- Transportation: AI is being used in self-driving cars to enhance transportation safety by identifying potential hazards, improving routing, and reducing accidents caused by human error.
- Retail: AI is being used for personalized advertising, product recommendations, and inventory management. It can help retailers understand their customers better and improve their shopping experience.
- Education: AI can be used to create customized learning plans, enabling teachers to focus on individual students. It can identify education gaps and provide solutions to improve learning outcomes.
Despite its numerous benefits, we cannot ignore AI’s ethical implications. AI’s integration into various sectors raises concerns about job displacement, privacy infringement, and potential biases. As AI continues to evolve, organizations must consider these ethical dilemmas while leveraging its potential benefits responsibly.
The following ethical concerns need to be addressed before we jump in blindly, though.
Bias in AI decision-making: AI systems are not immune to bias, particularly if the data used to train these systems is biased. This can result in decisions that are discriminatory. For instance, facial recognition technology has been shown to be inaccurate when identifying people with darker skin tones, raising concerns about racial bias in the technology.
While you are not likely using any decision-making tools yet, you do need to be careful if you are using them for HR tasks such as sorting through resumes or writing job descriptions. In fairness, unconscious bias happens when a human performs those tasks. It isn’t uncommon for unconscious bias to seep in as you sort through resumes and, for example, see one from a member of the association you belong to. You naturally see them in a better light. You could unintendedly prefer female candidates over male ones. You could have an age bias you are unaware of (leaning away from candidates of childbearing age for fear they will go on maternity leave).
However, AI does that too; only they wouldn’t be your unconscious biases, but those the system taught them.
In 2016, Twitter released an AI chatbot named Tay. It took less than 24 hours for Twitter users to corrupt it. Tay shared over 96,000 tweets in those 24 hours, and it quickly learned to copy users. That’s how it learns. It quickly became homophobic and racist, calling feminism a “cult.”
Could biases affect the decisions that AI makes in your company? Yes. Have we come a long way since I shared that story in my 2019 book, Alexa is Stealing Your Job? Yes, we have. However, AI learns from what it sees, and we know that while biased decision-making also happens for us, it is also happening for AI.
We need oversight until it can be taught not to be biased. Ensuring that AI algorithms are designed with fairness, accountability, and transparency is essential.
- Job displacement: AI has the potential to automate many jobs, which could lead to job loss and displacement. AI could negatively impact many industries as it advances, resulting in a potential economic crisis.
The World Economic Forum has predicted that AI will create millions of jobs, and it has already. However, it can eliminate millions of jobs. At this point, they are entry-level jobs (like cashiers at grocery stores, inventory, factory based). Still, AI will continue to learn more high-level abilities and potentially automate many of your tasks and jobs.
Machines also automated many jobs in the 1960s, and virtually every profession/job has evolved since then. The only job that existed on the 1950 census that no longer exists is an elevator operator. Your role has evolved, as has every other job—machines and AI free up our time from time-consuming tasks so that we can use our brains more.
I appreciate only some people want a brain-powered job. Some people are perfectly happy with that no-brain job, and I’m not judging.
- Invasion of privacy: AI can be used to gather vast amounts of data on individuals, raising concerns about privacy infringement. This data can be used for nefarious purposes if not regulated appropriately.
Privacy is the biggest concern in our workplaces. Anytime you give AI information, it can use it in any future application. For instance, if you wanted ChatGPT to take the transcript of your latest Board meeting to create minutes, it will. However, it now “knows” what your company talked about, what was said or discussed, what the issues are, etc. There is potentially a lot of very confidential information it now has access to.
Giving AI access to your emails to allow it to sort, edit, respond, etc, also shares that important information. Many AI email-based programs will save you hours but also give the “world” access to that information.
In a short period of time from now, we will ask ChapGPT (or any of the similar programs) what is on the competitor’s agenda for Tuesday at 2 pm (assuming they use AI-based calendaring). Or what new programs X company is working on etc.
The programs read, understand, and craft replies based on what it learns. Once it learns something, it uses that knowledge everywhere.
Will this happen? I doubt it, as someone will hopefully put limits/confidentiality on the information it shares. Could it happen? Absolutely. Will there be people (or machines) who can “get around” those restrictions? Yes.
AI systems rely on vast amounts of data to function correctly. It is crucial that the data used is collected and processed ethically, with the user’s consent and privacy respected.
The future of artificial intelligence is exciting, but it comes with significant ethical implications. As we use the tools available, we must choose them intentionally and with our eyes open.
I’m comfortable that Amazon tells me what other people buy when I intend to buy a product as I may want to buy it as well. Netflix is perfect in their recommendations on what I will enjoy watching, and I am 100% compliant when Waze tells me to get off the highway as there is a problem ahead. I know many aspects of AI are well worth my time and money. I also know that ethics are an aspect of AI that I won’t overlook either.
Education makes better choices. Be educated as AI infiltrates our lives. The time is quickly approaching when AI won’t be a choice, so make an educated choice on what you will and will not use, both personally and professionally.