We’re afraid of new technology, but we should really fear life without it.

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Why do we fear new technology?

We are fast closing in on Industry 5.0, where humans and machines will work together, and the industry will be led by new developments in AI. Thought leaders are of the opinion that, in 10-20 years, the impact of AI on society will be greater than electricity.

It could be argued that people are not afraid of the technology itself, but what it represents: significant societal change and the need to learn and adapt. AI is predicted to follow the same integrational path into society and everyday life as computers and the internet did. The technology is first used in sectors where there is critical need to take advantage of new developments to improve security, such as the military, government and defence sectors. It then filters down into workplaces, then homes.

To adequately prepare for a future where AI will be used in the majority of workplaces, industries will need to learn from their past mistakes with computers. Lack of training when it was relatively new technology, and the stubbornness of some industries in choosing to stick with paper-based systems, has led to a portion of the population – 20 years after a computer was common in most households – still significantly behind in terms of their understanding and ability to use modern technology.

When the time comes that AI is as commonplace as computers, governments will need to prepare training or re-training for all citizens to make sure that the whole population can benefit from AI, rather than leaving many at a disadvantage.

The biggest challenge of a future with AI is predicted to be providing education and training.

The ‘role’ of AI in society is to make work and life easier for us and to improve our quality of life. Experts say that the idea that AI can ‘replace’ humans is a myth and have compared AI to human children, in the sense that the technology can ‘learn’, but we still have to ‘teach’ it (input data); AI systems are therefore dependent on varying degrees of human interaction. It is estimated that, in 10-20 years, humans will be working with AI to create co-solutions. We call this “Human-AI teaming”.

The problem with doubt

Imagine a world without information at your fingertips; imagine having to use a typewriter; imagine a world without any CCTV; imagine not having a SatNav or Google maps and having to use a street map.

Yes, people survived. But in the modern age, access to information, navigation and data processing is so much easier and faster than only a couple of generations ago. Computers, mobile phones, the internet, SatNavs, social media and surveillance have massively enhanced our lives – yet these technological advances were subjected to the same fears and doubts as AI is now, when they were new.

For new developments in technology to be properly integrated into society, people have to accept and welcome them. Development in new technology only continues if there is a market for it. Our concern with the negativity that currently surrounds AI is that it is rapidly becoming clear that we desperately need AI technology. Law enforcement is struggling under diminishing numbers and increasing workload and cyber and cellular attacks are on the rise. Criminals are using sophisticated methods of AI in data fraud, and despite concerns from the public, our governments and law enforcement agencies will soon be forced to even out the playing field. We won’t be able to oppose cyber criminals with outdated technology.

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How can AI benefit society?

1. Meaningful jobs - Experts predict that, in approximately 20 years, jobs will fall under three main categories: ‘science’, ‘creative’ and ‘social’ (education, healthcare and community services). Technology that uses AI will be able to replace humans in job roles that have repetitive elements, and all human workers will have the potential to find a role that connects with their personality and values. Once the technology is available, it is predicted that companies will quickly integrate the faster, cheaper and more reliable AI which may lead to job displacement.

One of the main fears around a future with AI is job displacement. However, there is plenty of time to plan for job displacement and retraining, and governments will need to support workers in certain fields to retrain. Handled correctly, the change in available jobs should be something to look forward to rather than fear.

2. Predictive policing - Worries around using AI in policing are mainly based on a ‘Minority Report’ scenario – although, in the science-fiction film, psychics are used to predict crime, not AI. AI could greatly enhance law enforcement operations and one example would be aiding police in identifying victims of radicalisation. Terrorists target victims over internet forums and social media. Our prediction is that digital behavioural analytics will be used on communications between terrorists and victims. The analysis will create flags which can lead to early police intervention and the offer of social services or therapy.

AI will also free up police officers time by performing time intensive policing tasks (watching CCTV, trying to find the pattern in an investigation, relocating wanted/missing people) and that will allow them to concentrate on developing relationships within society.

3. Advances in education and healthcare -

AI is already used in schools in China to improve education and to free up teachers’ time. Instead of marking homework and exams, teachers in China have more time to help students who are struggling. AI could also radically improve healthcare, particularly elderly care which is predicted to be an ever-growing industry over the next 20 years. Technology that uses AI could ‘assist’ with the routine, repetitive tasks and leave healthcare workers with more time to focus on the social aspects of the job, which would improve care quality overall.

Like any new technology, integrating AI into workplaces, healthcare and society needs to be approached in a considerate and ethical way to ensure that it is beneficial for all. Seven Technologies Group looks forward to the positive benefits that AI will bring to our future

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Adrian Timberlake
Chief Technical Officer

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