Published: 27th November 2019
Are we letting AI decide our fate? Here's why we need a co-AI system
Dr Anthony Vickers, from the University of Essex says that AI will enter into all aspects of society and soon. But the question is should we give it enough power to make informed decisions?
AI is one of the most talked-about technological advancement of the century and its slowly but steadily becoming an integral part of our lives — from Alexa, Siri and Google assistance to healthcare and education. Professor Anthony Vickers, who heads the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at the University of Essex says that AI will enter into all aspects of society and soon. But the question is should we give it enough power to make informed decisions? Does that ensure that the decisions are only based on logical conclusions and not affected by emotion? Or will that ultimately result in some big bad AI turning rouge and claiming stake over the world as we know it?
"Software is already there in every step you take. Most of our work is based on AI but we also make sure that we take into consideration the ethical responsibility that comes with it. We work very closely with lawyers as well," says Dr Vickers. He thinks that making a decision is the tricky part. "We often see factories being shut down by human beings and that has its share of social repercussions. But imagine we have an AI system in place instead of a human being. How would you feel about it?" asks Dr Vickers.
There are projects that Dr Vickers and his colleagues have been working on where they have coded an AI to analyse social media content to search for human rights violations as well. We need a co-AI system like co-botics, where a human and AI will interact for an enhanced solution to problems, says the professor. "The AI engine simply skims through an enormous data set of social media content — from videos to messages and posts — analyses it and pinpoints human rights violations in Iran and Iraq. But once it picks up a piece of content that it thinks is a violation, a human being takes the final call," says Dr Vickers. "We also help with image processing in healthcare so that people do not leave the hospital with any untreated ailments. The engine, here too, just analyses the image but the final call is a doctor's," he adds.
Dr Vickers's department has some cool projects too. E.R.I.C (Embedded Robotic Interactive Canine) a walking robot quadruped which his department helped make in collaboration with Martin Smith, who completed his MSc in Robotics at the university. "ERIC uses some advanced algorithms. Though he cannot do much at this point I consider him a mascot of our department. He is proof that if you have imagination, great things are achievable," says Dr Vickers.
India, Dr Vickers thinks has an immense advantage when it comes to human capital. "India has an amazing young population who are creative and imaginative. You have to persuade them to think more and be more creative. That's how research grows. This huge talent pool could be wasted if not directed in the right way. The 21st Century students is not a job seeker but job creator," says the professor. "There is no point in having an over-engineered system of education that kills a student's imagination. We at Essex, have challenges for the students to think out of the box. I think that you must encourage students to apply their imagination wherever they can. An education that suppresses the imaginative thinking of a student is no good," he adds.