In the future, artificial intelligence will probably reshape our economy, society and our lives. But achieving AI’s full potential will not only require many technological innovations but research into some societal difficulties, including ethical issues, workplace disruptions, and changing human interactions.
Sci-fi movies portray artificial intelligence as self-aware computers, evil robots, and digital armageddon. Some fear that in the future, almighty superintelligent AI will far surpass human intelligence, posing an existential threat to humanity. But, the real threat to humanity, said Prof. Christakis, is that “for better and for worse, robots will alter humans’ capacity for altruism, love, and friendship.”
Major innovations have long had an impact on the ways that people interact with each other and the printing press, telephone, radio, TV, and the internet are such technologies.
“As consequential as these innovations were, however, they did not change the fundamental aspects of human behavior that comprise what I call the social suite: a crucial set of capacities we have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, including love, friendship, cooperation, and teaching…” he wrote.
“But adding AI to our midst could be much more disruptive. Especially as machines are made to look and act like us and to insinuate themselves deeply into our lives, they may change how loving or friendly or kind we are –not just in our direct interactions with the machines in question, but in our interactions with one another.”
Artificial intelligence can both improvise how humans relate to one another as well as make them behave less ethically.
Experiments with hybrid groups of people and robots working together have shown that the right kind of AI can help improve the group’s overall performance. But, in other experiments, he found that by adding a few bots posing as selfish humans, the same groups that previously behaved in an unselfish, generous way toward each other were now driven by the bots to behave in a selfish way.
This shouldn’t be surprising, as over the last few years we’ve seen how the spread of false information by malicious bots over social media can have a highly negative, polarizing impact on large groups of people.
“As AI permeates our lives, we must confront the possibility that it will stunt our emotions and inhibit deep human connections, leaving our relationships with one another less reciprocal, or shallower, or more narcissistic,” he writes.
We will be needing rules and policies overlooking to help us deal with potentially negative impacts of AI on society, not unlike how we’ve stopped corporations from polluting our water supply or individuals from spreading harmful cigarette smoke.
“In the not-distant future, AI-endowed machines may, by virtue of either programming or independent learning (a capacity we will have given them), come to exhibit forms of intelligence and behavior that seem strange compared with our own,” concludes Prof. Christakis. “We will need to quickly differentiate the behaviors that are merely bizarre from the ones that truly threaten us.”