Maintaining responsibility in the face of infinite possibility

Devin Conway

An Unprecedented Period of Growth

Over the last century, mankind has seen a tremendous and unprecedented amount of technological advancement. 

In that century, we have transitioned from a point in which vehicles were initially being introduced to the market to a point in which self-driving cars are quickly becoming the future of that industry.

In a more recent advancement, we have transitioned from a point in which video games were simply two-dimensional blocks bouncing a ball back and forth to one another, to a point in which virtual reality technology is readily available on the market at an affordable price. 

At no point in history has humanity been subject to this seemingly unlimited potential for growth and innovation, and it seems as though we hardly have time to appreciate the impact of such luxuries before the next groundbreaking technology hits the market.

The State of Artificial Intelligence In the World Today 

From Jan. 20 to Jan. 23 of 2016, experts in the technology industry gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland in order to discuss the state of artificial intelligence. 

As the panelists note, 2015 was a huge year for the artificial intelligence industry. It saw the introduction of the self-driving car as well as the capacity for robots to perform menial tasks such as file sorting and facial expression recognition. 

However, we are still very far away from the so-called ‘singularity’; the hypothetical point in which an artificially intelligent being has the capacity for self-improvement to a point that will take it far beyond the capacity of human intelligence. 

When this point is reached, the results will be unpredictable and will cause drastic changes in almost every imaginable facet of life.

Now that the possibility of artificially intelligent beings has gone from a science fiction plot line to a foreseeable reality, there are many factors to consider. Firstly, how can we ensure that these artificially intelligent beings will act in a way that will benefit humanity, rather than acting in their own self-interest? 

This question in and of itself brings forth a magnitude of problems. If these beings were to act in their own self-interest, that could come in the form of a minor inconvenience to humanity or it could come in the form of utter chaos.

Technological Innovation and The Future of Employment

When considering the economic system of neoliberal capitalism that has come to dominate the markets, it seems safe to assume that maximizing efficiency with the assistance of technology is a logical step in production. 

In fact, this efficiency maximization has been going on since the Industrial Revolution, and it helps to explain the increase in production of the average worker over the last few centuries. 

Innovations in different types of machinery and the implementation of the assembly line have helped to increase the production value of the average worker, and that used to work both to the benefit of the worker as well as the producer.

In addition to the factors that must be considered regarding technology itself, we must also stop to consider the impact of replacing working people with machines. There is a huge conflict of interest with a corporate entity, or any business for that matter, that seeks to maximize profits and output efficiency while keeping their costs down. 

Whereas machinery and technological advancements have generally made life easier for both workers and producers, we are getting to a point in which job security is hugely threatened by artificially intelligent beings.

A Chance To Move Forward

The general citizenry is terribly uninformed when it comes to technological growth and the endless possibilities that are coming to us in the not-so-distant future.

Although there are plenty of economic benefits of an increasingly technological society in virtually every industry imaginable, we must maintain a series of ethical guidelines which will hopefully prevent us from crossing a line that we cannot come back from. 

There are certainly those who are driven by the desire for greatness and innovation in technological growth as a testament to landmark achievements in the grand scheme of human existence, but we must all work together in order to avoid tragic consequences and advance the human race in ways that will truly benefit us all.