Is artificial intelligence dangerous to personal autonomy?

(Courtesy/WriteOpinions)

Throughout history, humans have witnessed changes within nature and society as a result of mechanisms such as natural selection and thought. These changes became apparent through noticeably improved performances over time, through a process that we now refer to as evolution.

Evolution has now occurred in more than just biological forms. Since the introduction of the first programmable computer in the early 19th century, the human brain has evolved to store data outside of itself. We have developed technologies capable of surpassing our own intelligence, technologies that can run a million times faster than the human brain.

< https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Babbage  goes with intro of the first programmable computer

The evolution of technology is not just dangerous due to the fact that electronic processes can think a million times faster than biochemical processes, but because its evolution is seemingly not dangerous.

Although we notice the changes in technology, do we really notice the danger? When you scroll through your phone, updating your Facebook or searching Google for answers, you don’t perceive your device as a threat, nor as a danger to yourself or society. These devices are seen by the mass public as tools; tools that allow instant access to limitless information.

There is no ignoring how far artificial intelligence has come in recent years. AI has evolved to provide voice-operated personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa, as well as personalized algorithms that companies such as Netflix and Facebook use to track your actions to make recommendations. Several more companies have utilized AI to provide individuals with an improved way of life.

Amazon began developing an artificial intelligence-led grocery store in late 2016 that allows customers to skip the checkout line. This is done through an app called Amazon Go that tracks customers to see what they have picked up and then places those items into a virtual cart. The app then charges the customers Amazon account as they leave the store.  

< https://www.wired.com/2016/12/amazon-go-grocery-store/ >

Companies like Google and Tesla are currently in the race to develop self-driving cars. Tesla, being in the lead, has been working with Advanced Micro Devices to develop a chip which would be capable of managing autonomous driving functions. < https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/20/tesla-building-an-ai-chip-for-its-cars-with-amd-globalfoundries.html >

“My take is that A.I. is taking over,” Sebastian Thrun, a well-known roboticist and a developer of Google’s self-driving car, said in a New York Times article. “A few humans might still be ‘in charge,’ but less and less so.” < https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/16/science/century-long-study-will-examine-effects-of-artificial-intelligence.html >

Maybe AI will not come to rule over us, as is often seen in science fiction, but how much will we come to depend on it? We naturally seek new technologies that will provide us improved performances, but how far will we go to seek that? What will be left of personal autonomy if we begin to rely solely on AI, with cars we don’t need to drive and groceries we don’t need to buy?

Although we cannot predict whether or not the development of AI will be the demise of humanity, we can predict that its evolution will not stop.


Emma DeGrandi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.degrandi@uconn.edu.