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Technology Revolution Can Help or Harm Societies

As artificial intelligence is used in an increasingly connected world, experts say inherent risks need to be addressed now as societies become more and more dependent on the technology for everyday tasks.

“It’s quite explosive what we’re seeing,” said Tom Siebel, chairman and chief executive officer at computer software company C3 IoT, during a recent Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

The experts discussed the benefits and dangers of technologies that allow machines to gather and analyze large amounts of data from connected devices. 

Dangers of a connected world

“Well, I think there are very serious concerns that we need to be aware of as it relates to the aggregation of all these data. A lot of this is personal identifiable data, economic data, health history data, human genomic data,” said Siebel, in discussing how the technology is applied to daily life.

Technology experts also said artificial intelligence has the potential to put people out of work.

“When we have autonomous vehicles, what are the taxi drivers in New York City going to do? This idea that we’re going to retrain them to be data scientists, this is crazy,” Siebel said. “What’s happening in the corporate world is corporations are facing a mass extinction event. Since the beginning of this century, 52 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared from the planet.”

In their place are new types of firms such as Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, and even car company Tesla. They exist because of artificial intelligence and big data. These technologies are not only affecting the corporate world, but they also pose a threat to national security, said the technology experts.

“As the most developed country in the world, we are at the most risk. We are connected the most, and our grid can be hacked,” said Usman Shuja, whose company, SparkCognition, works with industrial and defense clients.

“When the physical world gets connected to the internet, it’s not about stealing data, and IP. It’s also about causing a lot of damage. A turbine can be turned into a bomb, and a pump can be turned into something explosive. So, a lot of physical damage can also happen with cyberwarfare,” Shuja said.

Not moving forward with the technology, however, also poses risks, he noted.

“Today, the challenge with AI is if we don’t do it, somebody else can do it, so it’s become a race. If we don’t do it, China could do it. Russia could do it. Iran could do it,” said Shuja.

Technology experts said societies and governments need to prepare for what technology will bring and anticipate how it will change industries and society.

“Somebody needs to legislate. Somebody needs to regulate. These are important issues, and if we don’t do something about it, we’re going to be sorry,” warned Siebel.

The technology has implications for wealthy and developing countries, the experts said.

“AI, on the dangerous side of it, it can widen the gap. It can widen the gap so big that the poor countries can be left out; however, this is also the chance for poor countries and developing countries to skip the industrial revolution and make up for the lost time,” said Shuja.

Benefits of machine learning and AI

The experts predict the benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning will be seen across industries.

“We can save lives. We can identify illnesses in a predictive way. We can use fitness health data to be able to detect health issues long before they occur,” said Tom Bianculli, Zebra Technologies’ chief technology officer. 

Artificial intelligence can also help the planet, the experts said.

“Energy and power systems will be more environmentally efficient,” noted Siebel.

Technologists said the key is to find ways of minimizing the dangerous side of artificial intelligence while maximizing the benefits to society.

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