Let’s kick off by positioning artificial intelligence (AI) – not just in the cyber security and automation space, but in our everyday lives.
It’s easy to think you are a voyeur in the artificial intelligence (AI) debate, as realistically speaking, what has it got to do with you and your life today – surely, it’s a thing of the future?
Well, that’s simply not the case – if you own a cellphone, use internet banking, engage in social media, or even watch a streaming service in the evening to unwind – these are just some of the areas where AI is already massively in use. It’s very much a part of everyday life – so, it’s here and here to stay.
Forbes published a list of examples of how AI is already used in our everyday lives – some of which may surprise you.
Let’s start with the cellphone – is it the last thing you check at night and the first thing you reach for in the morning? If using biometrics to open it, AI is being used to enable that functionality.
Next is social media – Facebook, Twitter (call it what you like) and Instagram are more examples of where AI has been deployed to personalise what users see on their feeds.
E-mails – the bane of many of our work existences but so necessary – if you’re using Grammarly or any activated spell check to draft error-free messages – you’re using AI tools. Google searches – how often do you go to Google for information – without the aid of AI it would be impossible for search engines to scan the entire internet.
According to the Forbes article, AI also has much to do with the advertisements that crop up on searches – their appearance is based on personal search history. Big brother may not be watching but AI is and capturing every move for future reference.
AI inspires and excites but at the same time makes us ill at ease.
Digital voice assistants – Siri, Alexa and more − use AI language processing tools to provide the information needed.
Did you log onto internet banking today? Yes? Then you engaged with AI systems working behind the scenes to ensure the security of transactions and to detect fraud. AI also verifies purchases to determine if it's a "normal" transaction – meaning does this form part of your purchasing behaviour/history. It will either validate or decline on that basis.
And the next time you get a “because you watched this” message from your favourite streaming service, Forbes says to remember it is being power by AI tools devising what you might like to watch based on previous viewing history.
Is AI a benefit or a potential curse?
Now we have put to bed the notion that AI is an irrelevance for futuristic technologies, let’s turn to the main theme of the debate around its use – is it a good or bad thing?
Earlier this year. Monmouth University, in the US, concluded its 2023 AI developments awareness poll and deduced that this has increased over the past decade. It reports that opinion about its potential impact remains largely unchanged, with most people surveyed expressing concern about the possible effects of new products such as ChatGPT. And these people only supported the use of AI in just a few types of applications.
This scepticism is interesting given that nearly half of those surveyed actually use at least one form of AI – namely voice recognition – on a regular basis. Some 35% reported hearing a lot about recent AI developments regarding the ability of computers and machines to carry out decision-making thought processes similar to humans.
This level of awareness is much higher than that of eight years ago, when it was seen to be just 12% of those surveyed. The biggest increase was among younger adults. In 2015, just 12% of 18- to 34-year-olds heard a lot about developments in the field. Today, nearly half (45%) of this age group says the same.
Overall, more men (46%) than women (24%) have heard a lot about recent AI developments, while 91% of those surveyed reported awareness of the term AI – which translates into a 70% increase since the 2015 figures recorded.
One of the newer AI products, ChatGPT, seemed to raise concerns due to its ability to have conversations and write entire essays based on a few human prompts.
Some 60% of people surveyed had heard of the product, with 72% believing there will be a time when entire news articles will be written by AI. Interestingly, very few viewed this as a positive development – quite the opposite. More than 78% felt that news articles written by AI would be a bad thing.
Furthermore, 65% felt it is very likely that AI programs such as ChatGPT will be used by students to cheat on their school or tertiary education assignments.
AI inspires and excites but at the same time makes us ill at ease. These dichotomies appear to be particularly relevant today with the emergence of ChatGPT, Bard and other generative AI technologies suddenly changing the expected timeline for widespread implementation.
In my next column, I will cut to the chase – cyber security – one of the biggest worries of AI.