Will AI help or hurt us?

We now have computers that can perform tasks that once required human intelligence–and we’re just getting started with this revolution. But, Elon Musk (think: Tesla, SpaceX and a bunch of other forward-looking companies) has warned that AI could lead us to the third world war, that it’s more dangerous than North Korea, and that it’s a bigger threat than nuclear weapons.

Artificial intelligence has the capacity to eliminate jobs and eradicate cancer; to invade countries without using soldiers; to make impartial decisions based on reams of data, uninfluenced by bias or judgement.

It probably represents the most significant change in human history.

Let’s talk–just a little–about some of the big concerns and enormous capabilities.

AI will positively transform mankind.


Machines can detect and diagnose cancer more accurately than doctors. The implication? They can give those doctors to do more things that machines can’t, like talk to patients, plan their programs and support them emotionally.


Neural mesh, powered by artificial intelligence machines, is being developed in order to enable disabled people to move things. Right now, a disabled person can use it to type–simply by thinking.


The United Nations estimates that we need a 70% increase in food production to feed the world by 2050, yet about half of the world’s food ends up in the garbage.

  • AI is used to detect food that would otherwise be thrown out (items that are strangely shaped or colored, for example) and throw it into production of items like french fries and ketchup. The process has already saved 5-10% of food that would’ve been tossed.
  • AI is used to detect plant diseases at early stages so they can be treated by farmers.
  • AI is used for early detection and reduction of weeds which allows farmers to reduce their use of chemicals.
  • AI can alert us to crop failure, droughts and rising food prices that indicate impending food shortages.  Food shortages are linked to political unrest and instability.

Read more here.

shortage of medical care

There is an estimated global need for 80 million health care workers by 2030, yet the number of healthcare professionals is expected to reach 65 million, leaving a shortage of 15 million.

In 2012, 6.6 million children died under the age of five, mostly from preventable and treatable diseases, yet our ability to meet the healthcare needs is declining.

MIT reports that in China there are 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 people, compared with 2.5 in the US. In order to address that shortage, they are looking to AI for support with diagnosis and design of treatment.


more effective businesses emerge

Automation is the biggest contributor to the loss of U.S. jobs to overseas companies. However, an increase in the use of more effective robots–along with higher labor costs in developing countries like China–have caused U.S. companies to not only reduce their use of foreign labor but also to bring jobs back home.

Deloitte consulting surveyed global manufacturing executives who predicted that that the United States – now No. 2 – will overtake China as the most competitive country in manufacturing by 2020.

The Reshoring Initiative is a nonprofit that lobbies manufacturers to return jobs to the United States. They report that America was losing 220,000 net jobs a year to other countries a decade ago. Now, the number being moved abroad is roughly offset by the number that are coming back or being created by foreign investment.

income redistribution

If jobs are displaced by AI, and companies are more profitable, then what do we do with all those unemployed people? The government may need to step in.

Will we get to the point at which we decide that people deserve food, safety, etc, not because they are productive but because they are human?


AI can be used in training, facial recognition, surveillance and language translation. It can be used in predicting maintenance needs, which could reduce risk of injury from failed equipment. It can replace soldiers on the ground, in the air, or under water. It can be used to more efficiently deploy resources.

AI should be used cautiously, and with regulation.

garbage in/garbage out

The data we use to create computer programs may reflect and amplify biases.

For example, a risk assessment computer program used by a court seemed biased against black prisoners. The program, Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (Compas), wrongly flagged black defendants as a risk at almost twice the rate as white defendants (45% to 24%).

COMPAS and programs similar to it were used in hundreds of U.S. courts, potentially informing the decisions of judges.

income disparity

With companies becoming more efficient, and profits increasing, enormous wealth is likely to be concentrated in relatively few hands.

people out of work

Advances in human history have always been marked with job loss and the corresponding need for retraining.

But what happens to people who can’t find productive lives? Will the government need to step in? And, if so, does that mean massive income redistribution from those that greatly profited from machine-driven automation to those that couldn’t make the transition?

loss of control

CNBC looked at the Elon Musk documentary on AI. Here are a few quotes:

Superintelligence — a form of artificial intelligence (AI) smarter than humans — could create an “immortal dictator,” billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk warned.

“At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.”

decision making

Stanislav Petrov was the Russian officer on duty when his country’s computer models showed a missile attack by the U.S. was imminent. It didn’t seem right to him, though, and–despite reports from the computer–Petrov went with his gut feeling and called the report an error. Turns out, he was right: later it was discovered that the “missiles” were actually sunlight glinting off clouds.

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