Artificial intelligence doesn’t have to be something from a sci-fi movie. It has very real applications that have the potential to make industries more streamlined and efficient. However, AI’s place in industry has drawn criticism and concern recently, especially with the World Economic Forum’s discussions and warnings.

AI has many uses in anything from basic business operations to complicated medical and predictive analysis. Yet the WEF caution that AI could only further inequality rather than help remedy it. Without the globalisation of technology, it may be employed by the privileged and inaccessible to others. This will therefore further global marginalisation.

So, does AI really have the potential to change the world, as experts claim?

Artificial intelligence on a global scale

The benefits of artificial intelligence seem obvious, but it’s necessary to ask the question: will these benefits be global? If some companies progress with AI but others (in less developed countries) do not, then AI’s success will be stymied, one group will accelerate above another, and inequality will only worsen.

In a survey done by the University of Oxford, only 41%  – somewhat or strongly – supported the development of AI. The majority of those in support were those with a higher education as opposed to those with high school or less, which could suggest that more education about how AI works and its capabilities could help ease concerns. Distrust largely comes from misinformation, or misunderstanding, of artificial intelligence.

Some of this lack of confidence is the result of limited understanding about what artificial intelligence actually is. Sure, the phrase might bring to mind machines taking over the world and overly-intelligent AIs – but the reality is a lot more mundane (and reassuring).

Artificial intelligence refers to the ability of machines to do ‘human’ tasks and learn as humans would – except they are generally more efficient and can handle large quantities of information processing at once.

We’ve already discussed how AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) might become more secure with blockchain, but the question of AI’s potential on a global scale is one that’s largely unexplored.

Will AI really help society, or will it only help those in already developed countries?

AI’s (hidden) ability

AI’s potential lies in its capacity to predict and do what humans cannot.

This doesn’t just make things easier, but also safer. Industrial AIs could mean predicting dangerous situations before they happen and providing better security for machines.

AI also has the ability to do lots of things that would be time-consuming for workers, such as analysis and automation. AI will make the process of analysis more efficient and accurate. Right now, our only experience with AI is intelligent assistants, like Google or Siri. In reality, you can use AI in anything from mineral exploration to marketing.

Many of the concerns surrounding artificial intelligence are social issues. AIs like Google or Siri are called Artificial Narrow Intelligence (or ANI). Others, AGIs or ASIs, are possible but probably not in the near future. AGIs are as intelligent as humans, while ASIs (Artificial Super Intelligence) surpass the intelligence of humans.

It’s unlikely that AGIs and ASIs will be reality in the near future, so the ethics of sentient robots is not something you need to worry about any time soon.

How do we solve the problem of AI in industry?

While AI poses a great deal of benefits for industries, it also presents a few problems. Fortunately, the risks of artificial intelligence are not as prevalent as often portrayed.

Among them are security, equality and employment. Which is to say:

  • How secure is it?
  • Will it be global?
  • Will it take employment from workers?

We’ve addressed these questions before. However, they pose a very real risk to the development of AI. There are ways to combat this. For instance, as we have discussed before, Industry 4.0 and Globalisation 4.0 must go together. One cannot succeed without the other. There are ways to deal with the issues of AI, but they require forethought and planning. We certainly have time to plan how to combat the entirely sentient AI (which may, in fact, never actually be possible).

The success of Industry 4.0 will be based on this technology becoming widespread and accessible even to communities with limited technological expertise.

AI isn’t impenetrable to attack or manipulation – but it’s nowhere near as scary as popular culture makes it out to be. Rather, AI has the potential to make our lives a whole lot easier and safer. With the combination of things like blockchain and quantum computing, AI could become the main driver of future development.

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