The pros and cons of AI: Separating fact from fiction – by Sim Sekhon, MD
When ChatGPT was released last November, it didn’t take long for alarm bells to start ringing. This new AI technology was, reportedly, the start of human obsolescence. When machines could produce coherent essays, sit exams for us, write poetry and give human-sounding answers to our questions, where was it all going to end?
The alarmist headlines have continued. Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder is the latest high-profile tech specialist to raise concerns, but a lot of the worries are unnecessary. Amongst the scare stories, when you look closely, you’ll find AI being used for good. It’s detecting cancers before humans can spot them. It’s enabling deep-sea exploration. It’s defusing explosive devices. It’s allowing therapists to help children with speech and hearing difficulties more effectively. And there’s much, much more.
AI is already familiar
AI, for all the current hoo-ha, isn’t new. The earliest forms of the technology were developed in the 1950s. Lots of us use it every day. Alexa isn’t a tiny human living in a box in your kitchen. It’s AI. Those “how can we help you today” pop-up boxes on websites aren’t real people called Nick or Nadia. They’re chatbots, and yes, some of them are awful. I often hear complaints about them, and I believe that customers should always have the option of speaking with a real, living person.
That’s one of our principles at Propoly. We love our tech and what it can do, but humans are awesome and, ultimately, irreplaceable.
Help for the fallible human?
Perhaps, rather than reacting to the headlines, we should take a balanced look at the pros and cons of artificial intelligence.
In this sometimes heated debate, I’m afraid to say that many of AI’s plus points arise because of human weaknesses. We are brilliant, but we are fallible too. That’s the human condition: moments of magic – a wonderful discovery, a problem solved, a crisis averted and minutes later we can’t find our car keys.
AI doesn’t have these blips. Power supplies permitting, it’s reliable. It doesn’t make mistakes because it doesn’t have good days and bad days. It’s easy for us to omit a single digit from a transcribed phone number. Not so for the tech solution – and it can do the job far faster than we can with 100% accuracy. Any business leader who has ever looked at the costs of a simple mistake will know that human errors need to be reduced. Life is easier without them.
Then AI can do the jobs we’d rather not, either because they’re too boring or because they’re too dangerous. I’ve already mentioned AI’s use in bomb disposal, but many other environments are hostile, and if AI can help avoid human exposure to hazards, I’m all for it. As for that mind-numbing repetitive task – that’s a hazard too. Humans slip up when they’re bored. They drift off, half asleep on the job.
Sleep. We all need our downtime. Robots don’t. They can work the shift patterns that mess up our circadian rhythms and keep going 24/7. They don’t need days off, don’t get sick and will cheerfully work on every public holiday.
Oops. Did I sound a touch anti-human there?
I’m not. I just know our limitations and I’m including myself in the category of the fallible, sometimes tired and occasionally wrong. But one thing I know is that AI has the capacity to process information swiftly and accurately. That can lead to lots of good things including faster service, more reliability and the cost-effectiveness that makes software like Propoly very affordable.
What about our jobs?
What about the cons, then? Naturally, there’s some concern about employment but, generally speaking, people like dealing with people. Propoly might be a tech platform but it’s the team behind the tech that makes it work and delivers our friendly supportive service.
Then AI is said to lack creativity, ethics or emotions. All true. But humans have those things in spades. If we can balance our capabilities with the best that this technology can offer, we will have something both powerful and controllable.
Part of the crew?
AI may not be fully understood, but it’s not evil. It’s simply a logical processing tool. In some ways, it’s like Star Trek’s Mr Spock whose default setting was always logical. He could seem cold, but he was nevertheless a vital part of the Enterprise team and trusted by his human crewmates.
That’s where we are. AI won’t replace us. It will be something we use, capable of doing some things we can’t do but utterly hopeless at other things.
And rest assured, Propoly is, and always will be, run by and for humans.