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We're 'Sleepwalking' On The Dangers Of Artificial Intelligence, Experts Warn

Australia's chief scientist is among those warning about the impact on society and dangers associated with the rise of artificial intelligence.

AI has the power to boost the economy, improve environmental sustainability and create a more equitable society -- but there are dangers associated with its rise, the panel of experts has told.

The report was developed to give Australians a reference point to understand AI, and what living in a future dominated by the technology will really mean.

AI refers to a collection of technologies which give machines the ability to perform tasks and solve problems that would otherwise require the human brain to carry out.

Source: Getty Images.

While the U.S. and China are undoubtedly leaders in AI technology, Australia is punching well above its weight in terms of establishing systems for mining, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Australia is also the five-time winner of the world robot soccer competition, the Robocup. The contest, most recently held in Sydney, has the goal of encouraging engineers to create "a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players" which can beat the FIFA World Cup champion team by the middle of the 21st century.

The authors of the Australian report detail how AI holds a huge amount of promise in the fields of communication, defence and energy resources -- but warn that without proper regulation, it has dangerous potential.

"What kind of society do we want to be? That is the crucial question for all Australians, and for governments as our elected representatives," said Australia's chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

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According to a recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, AI is set to add $15 trillion to the global economy by 2030, and  has the potential to promote social equity and change society for the better in terms of accessibility.

Professor Toby Walsh, co-chair of the report's expert panel and AI researcher at the University of NSW, told 10 daily there is a need for new policy to regulate government and private developments, to minimise the danger and increase the likelihood of social good.

Robots in the Robocup. Photo: Getty

"These are technologies that can enable society to be a fairer, more level playing field but that won't happen if we just let technology be developed," he said.

"It's a natural human trait to sleepwalk into the future."

He stated that there is currently a "race to the bottom" in the private sector, as unethical or questionable behaviour in AI is occurring, and new policy is needed to disband this process.

"We've given the technology sector a huge carte blanche...and that has brought amazing innovation but it has also brought some downsides," Walsh said.

Fear not humans, I am just like one of you
FedEx autonomous robot trial. Source: AAP Photos.

The report also details how autonomous weapons -- programmed to identify and deliver lethal force without human intervention -- need to be regulated in Australia.

The researchers say the Australian government needs to demonstrate "ethical leadership" in this area and help to establish a precedent of norms that will resist amoral use of this technology.

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AI can not understand moral motivation, moral innocence, moral responsibility, sympathy or justice in the same way that human cognition can, making the development of automated weapons particularly concerning.

Walsh does not believe that either the government or the public have entirely comprehended how much AI is already affecting -- and how much it is about to affect -- our society.

Photo: Getty

The report's authors believe Australians need to be educated better about the technology, to allow them to make informed choices and vote on this basis -- to protect themselves, and improve the world around them.

"We can choose the future we want to have, the future is very much the product of the choices we make today," Walsh said.