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Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?

In a rapidly evolving society, artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral component of essential worldly functions that were once carried out by humans. Its usage has grown considerably with the passage of time, and it has been adopted all over the globe across a number of industries. According to a report from January 2024, 432,000 businesses in the UK use at least one form of AI technology, and this statistic is still much higher for that of other regions. The incredible rise of this phenomenon has taken the world by storm, sparking debates as to whether its limitless potential promotes positive change, or rather, poses a threat to the conventional norms of society.


 


What is it?


In essence, AI refers to the simulation of human intellectual processes by computerised systems. It is utilised for a multitude of reasons, playing out through various mediums ranging from personal use to professional purposes. Popular examples of AI include ChatGPT, Snapchat AI, Quillbot and more; these softwares allow for a seamless digital experience like no other. What sets this new medium apart from human engagement with information, in particular, is how quickly it can generate responses and strategies; a study showed that a computer system is 125,000 times faster than the human neuron. The speed with which ChatGPT, for example, can provide a detailed framework for an idea, is incredibly impressive and somewhat unimaginable within the context of a few years ago. Fast forward to today, and having a pre-coded program writing a full essay for you is a part of normalcy.


 


Positives


The strength of artificial intelligence primarily lies in its ability to enhance efficiency and productivity, streamlining automation processes via the minimization of human error.


Manufacturing industries, for instance, make use of precision-based robotic systems equipped with AI algorithms to increase production rates and cost savings. AI has also proved itself as a valuable tool for the healthcare sector, where it leverages vast datasets for diagnosis, treatment planning and drug discovery. Machine learning algorithms possess the ability to analyse data to identify potential drug candidates more efficiently than traditional methods, accelerating the potential to come up with new treatments and therapies that can address pressing global health challenges.


Environmental Conservation & Accessibility
Additionally, the use of robotic intelligence in monitoring the environment and efforts of conservation is increasingly gaining traction. AI-powered sensors or AI-powered drones can collect and analyse data on several social issues including climate change, biodiversity etc., providing useful insights for policymakers who can make real impacts. In this way, AI allows us to derive information that can be used to monitor and protect the planet via sustainable preservation, demonstrating its positive impact beyond traditional sectors. Furthermore, the elevation of accessibility is a notable benefit of AI systems, levelling the playing field for individuals with disabilities through speech recognition technology and other alternatives. 


Education
Perhaps most significant is the contribution of AI to revolutionising the field of education by powering platforms to cater to individual student needs. In this way, content is disseminated in a way that optimises the understanding and retention of information. A case study in Japan from 2023 shows that by the integration of AI technology within the context of today’s enhanced, data-driven learning environment, it is possible to find that individual learners can be provided with more efficient learning and reflection of learning.


Negatives


There are some well substantiated, negative connotations attached to the growth of artificial intelligence. These stem mainly from concerns surrounding the idea of AI overtaking humans within working environments; job displacement is now an eminent issue as computer softwares take over the performing of mundane tasks, exacerbating counterproductive shifts in income inequality, requiring more concentrated efforts towards upskilling the human workforce to adapt to a contemporary employment landscape. This idea, however, has been put to question by the theory of the ‘complementary effect’ wherein the automation of a human job increases the amount of wealth generated in an economy, causing an outward shift (increase) in demand, ultimately increasing the need for human employment. In addition, moral issues loom large in the AI debate, especially in regards to the collection of large amounts of personal data which in turn runs the risk of violating privacy. The rapid development of AI also raises questions about its governance and regulation, with a lack of standardised ethical guidelines being put in place which leaves room for unanticipated consequences.


Inequality through Capitalism
It is crucial to address, on the contrary to the point about increased accessibility above, the digital divide that AI advancements can bring about. This is because access to these technologies is not universal, and therefore can create disparities between those who are able to harness the benefits of AI, and those who aren’t. Therefore, there are concerns that align with the Marxist school of thought in terms of how advancements in such technology tend to keep the ruling-class at the top of the social hierarchy and the working-class at the bottom. Bridging this gap would warrant infrastructure development to ensure that the benefits of artificial intelligence are accessible to all, promoting inclusivity and reducing inequality.


That being said, it is clear that artificial intelligence holds both the potential to improve different areas of society, as well as the possibility of damaging these areas. Looking at this debate through a subjective scope would mean that its consequences depend on the use and application of the different forms of such a greatly complex innovation. Undoubtedly, nonetheless, certain comprehensive measures should be established to mitigate the harmful risks of AI, and to instead build its trust with the public.


 


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