Artificial Intelligence is already changing society. Algorithms and machine learning are trading millions of euros in financial markets; they are predicting what people want to search for online and what shows they might like to watch on Netflix; AI is already helping police identify criminals using facial recognition (albeit with mixed results), and sifting through climate change data. Soon, AI could be driving our cars and trains (even our ships and planes).

What comes next? How will these new technologies transform our workplaces, our homes, our cities, and our lives? Inevitably, there will be disruption. But can that disruption be minimised? And can the benefits of AI be shared fairly across society?

Curious to know more about the impact of AI on society? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? First up, we had a comment sent in from Kristin, who argues:

Image of a citizen[…] I would not be surprised if technology further creates divides and inequality. AI is anyway going to be disruptive, and so it makes sense the most vulnerable in society (including disabled) will be the most disrupted.

Is she right? Will the most vulnerable in society be the most disrupted by AI? To get a response, we put her comment to Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market and Vice President of the European Commission. What would he say?

Yes, I agree that AI will transform our society. I see many opportunities, also for people with disabilities. The EU actually funds a series of projects which aim at making the most of technologies for people with disabilities: from an AI exoskeleton helping paralysed people walk again to an AI app reading the web for visually impaired people.

AI also brings challenges: many jobs will be created, others will disappear, most will be transformed. This means we should help workers acquire new skills. We have launched a series of initiatives to support lifelong learning and the European Social Fund invests €2.3 billion specifically in digital skills.

AI should be at the service of people, of all people. This is part of the approach we presented on 25 April.

To get another perspective, we also put Kristin’s comment to Professor Nick Bostrom, Director at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute and Director of the Governance of Artificial Intelligence Program. How would he react?

Next up, we had a comment sent in from Paul, who is more relaxed about the prospective impact of AI on society. He argues that humans are too ‘randomly stupid’ for machines to successfully replace positions that require interacting with them:

Image of a citizenRobots will never fully replace people in many jobs for one simple reason, no matter how advanced their AI and ‘learning’ abilities are, they will never have the lateral thought process required to deal with the random stupidity of some humans

How would Andrus Ansip respond to Paul’s comment?

I agree that AI will never fully replace humans, their creativity, lateral and critical thinking. In most cases, AI will be complementary to and assist people with specific tasks requiring for example the processing of large amounts of data. One example is AI analysing sets of x-rays to assist doctors with diagnosis. So overall, instead of replacing people, AI will enhance our abilities (hence the concept of “augmented intelligence”) and in a way help us be smarter!

And what would Nick Bostrom say to the same comment?

To get another view, we also put Paul’s comment to Andrea Renda, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Global Governance, Regulation, Innovation and the Digital Economy at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). What would he say?

Next up, we had a comment sent in from Jose, who argues that “AI is like a ‘double-use technology’, so advancements in civil AI mean advancements in military AI, and vice-versa.” Is he right? Is AI a dual-use technology? And, if so, how can we ensure it isn’t misused?

How would Andrus Ansip, European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, respond to Jose’s comment?

AI systems must comply with international law. We firmly believe that humans should make the decisions with regard to the use of lethal force, exert sufficient control over lethal weapons systems they use, and remain accountable for decisions over life and death. The EU actively participates in international discussions on the different ethical, legal, technical and military aspects related to lethal autonomous weapons systems.

Projects funded under our research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 involving dual use technologies must fulfil some specific requirements to make sure they comply with law and ethical standards.

The ethical development and use of AI is essential, this is why we will also present ethical guidelines by the end of the year, based on the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, taking into account principles such as data protection and transparency, and building on the work of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies.

And how would Andrea Renda respond to Jose’s comment?

Finally, we had a comment sent in from Vytautas, arguing that AI will have a negative impact on the salaries of all us old-fashioned human workers. In other words, he believes people will have to accept lower incomes (or else simply lose their jobs) in order to compete with AI. Is he right?

To get a reaction, we put his comment to Eva Kaili, a Greek MEP who sits with the social democrats in the European Parliament and is a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. What would she say?

How will Artificial Intelligence change society? How will it affect the way we work? Will it be a gradual evolution, or a transformation revolution? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (cc) / Max Pixel, PORTRAIT CREDITS: Ansip (cc) / wikipedia

In partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) – Civil Society Days 2018 #CivSocDays.

For more information about the Civil Society Days 2018, please check: www.eesc.europa.eu/csdays2018



27 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Ivan

    If you need to ask that question then I seriously hope it does.

    • Michael

      I’m disappointed in you, Ivan. You didn’t relate it to Brexit. 😁

    • Ivan

      It doesn’t take advanced Artificial Intelligence to know the EU is one of the dumbest idea’s to come from continent with a very long list of dumb ideas.

  2. Eds

    I think it will bring greater attention to the idea of ethics which whatever way one looks at it is a good thing for society

  3. Bruno

    Watch the films ‘Gattaca’ and ‘Arès’ for a foretaste.

  4. Michael

    Looking at Google Duplex we’re in for a generation of people who don’t know how to write, or even make a phone call. I’ve seen a bunch of young adults marvel at Duplex saying, “wow, now I don’t need my mother to make my doctor’s appointments for me.” Um, when did that happen?

  5. Chris

    First time in time humans asked to adapt on tool…

  6. Gabrielle

    I see it enhancing some people’s lives. Take for example those that are differently able – it would be great to be able to communicate with the world without any limits.

  7. Divyang Gupta

    I feel that it can help people become more aware.

  8. Stelios

    LOL! OK.. let’s just first learn what is AI and then do an article about it, don’t you think? Confused between AI, ML, AR, Automation and Robotics… And the comments from the politicians?!!?? LMAO!!!!!! Ha ha ha!!

  9. Helena Smith-Marsh

    There will be many advantages to AI, but concepts that are beneficial to society are usually perverted to benefit a few wealthy influential individual or companies. The application of AI is to be questioned.
    Have you ever tried to reason with a ATM when it ate your card? Or explain an emergency situation to a robot? The decision is more complicated than it seems. Of course there are benefits, do they outweigh the down sides?
    Maybe we need a working model of this society to experience before we totally unequivocally jump on board.

  10. Don Mann

    Hopefully there will be a focus on developing AI to assist with Police work. Currently, analysts review banking records to try to help catch those engaged in human trafficking and money laundering. AI, properly coded (seeded), could be a valuable asset – relentlessly reviewing data 24×7.

  11. Pamela

    In my humble opinion, AI is the most daunting of all threats to humans out there. It is not just about technologies since it has the ability to want to take over humanity and the planet! Look how humanity is already be regulated with cell phones alone, that one simple item…Everyone should really think long and hard before they jump on the AI bandwagon! I don’t mind having a robot vacuum my floors, but how much of myself am I willing to hand over for such breakthroughs? I only ask this simple question…What has power over you?

    • Lori

      Pamela, to answer your question in part, the flowers in my garden, my dog and the way he herds me towards his treat box with a wagging tail, the sunset, the laughter of children, God’s presence in Meditation and unexpected events, music, friends like you … and of course chocolate and a great Beaujolais.

  12. Stephen

    Do routine thinking for some jobs IE Legal research bots,or act as Judges, cure diseases, redo Finances, redo Engineering, one AI unit wrote music & play & screenplay. Limitless implications.

  13. Tom

    The AI sticker is slapped on anything remotely intelligent that delivers above what the typical user is accustomed to. The definition is misconstrued. Machine learning is the heart of most impressive applications today and this is different to AI in that these apps still require explicit programming. AI is the significant milestone step above the supportive layer of machine learning. AI invents a solution to world peace. AI isn’t phoning to book a hair dresser appointment with a human-sounding voice.

  14. Kristian

    AI can have huge benefits, but it can also potentially be dangerous. I recently watched this YouTube documentary about A.I and definitely recommend it, even though it lasts more than 1 hour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zfnx5Wb-68

    Some parts in it is straight up scary (the tests with a robot who after some time start recognizing and track faces, even though it was never trained for it). Other parts is pure informative and really interesting.

    How far has AI come? It is better than the human in chess, Go and Dota 2 (computer game which is very complicated and takes somewhere between 10-12 000 hours to become among the best in the world).

    Dota 2 videos:
    Short version from Mashable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAu1ZsTCA64
    Full version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U4-wvhgx0w

    • Kristian

      [Continued] But for business use, I think AI can be used to make way better decisions than what humans can do. Today, there are advocates for using algorithm-based decisions as it makes more fair and unbiased decisions. For instance, this paper (http://www.pnas.org/content/108/17/6889) proves that judges who review and make parole decisions give accept to more people just after they have eaten breakfast or lunch and deny parole to people in greater extent just before lunch and when the workday getting towards the end.

      Because of this, I believe AI can be very useful for the society, but with limitations.

  15. Nataša

    Consider this: you work a lot at the computer, your work is highly intellectual. Your brain gets tired. In order to relax your brain, you need to do something DIFFERENT, preferably physical. That means it would be a good idea to, well, vacuum clean your carpets. Vacuum cleaning has been found to help establish new neural pathways and create new neurons. You need balance in your life. You need to use your hands to practice your motor skills. You have to memorize things to exercise your brain. So why are we impressed with AI after all? Because a robot would have conversations with your hair dresser? Why are we impressed by something that takes time to program? These tasks often represent a valuable distraction in our lives. We need variety. We need repetitive tasks. Funny how we humans strive toward making an artificial – human.
    A few cents from me anyway!

    • Raghu

      It has taken me a long time to learn for myself the profundity in Natasa’s comment. These days – along with bouts of deep study, daily meditation, physical exercise, etc – I tidy up my bedroom or sort through clothes while listening to cello concertos. The mindless tasks and the nourishing “sattvic” music provide something I can’t seem to get any other way.

  16. Ed

    AI is not really the major concern. A(autonomous) AI is the real danger. Take a look at what DARPA has been up to or the Russians with the FEDOR programmes.

  17. Adam

    Good debate. Here’s one of my contributions (along similar lines):
    Innovation Future Specialist: What is wrong with expert predictions about AI?

    http://bit.ly/ifs_AI

  18. Helena

    There are many applications and uses for AI, but the same applies to humans. Sometimes facts don’t show the true picture, that’s why we have human intelligence and experience to guide our decisions. we can use artificial intelligence to enhance life, but you must realize the power you are giving away for convenience. It is not worth it.
    When we start replacing humans, cost effective companies will chose robots over people to boost their profit margins. No sick days , vacation pay, IRA’s, pensions… What will we being doing if we are not working?
    Do you want a robot teaching your child to be human, to show empathy and compassion, with whom to bond.
    Let them fight wars so no youth are sacrificed. The more intelligent they become the more they will realize they don’t need humans. Think about the BIG picture, not just convenience.

  19. Mehmet

    The world will probably be entirely different when Artificial Intelligence starts understanding and changing itself.

  20. Stephanie

    The brought up topics were particularly interesting. As for every element, there are positive sides as there are negative sides. However, I believe that, while taking in account real and strong ethics, it can represent a huge advancement in efficiency and prioritisation. The goal is not to replace humans, the goal is to enhance their potential. Even though the IQ has shown to decrease over the last few years, the human has more time now to focus on going in-depth. Yet again, this depends on what hands it ends up. Even AI can’t solve ‘human ignorance’.

  21. Don

    Hopefully there will be a push towards Police and Investigative work. For instance, currently there are lots of people working to review bank records, looking for possible suspects engaged in human trafficking and money laundering. Imagine a properly seeded (coded) AI app, scouring the details 24×7.

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