4 Common Myths About Artificial Intelligence

As technology advances, artificial intelligence has become much more visible in software and the public eye. In recent years, Google launched their AI Platform to help teams bring AI-powered projects to market faster, Amazon is using machine learning and AI to improve personalization, and Facebook launched an internal AI team within their research department, FAIR, to advance the science and technology of artificial intelligence.

As Facebook puts it, they are trying to “solve AI”.

However, it’s important to note that AI has been an interesting theme in the news and popular culture for years. Movies like I, Robot, Ex Machina and Terminator prove that artificial intelligence is commonly believed to be dangerous.

These popular representations result in a negative idea of artificial intelligence, which seems unfair when AI is capable of so much. Read on to learn more about the myths surrounding artificial intelligence and why they’re (mostly) exaggerated.

Myth #1: Artificial Intelligence is About Creating Thinking Machines

Popular culture leads us to think that the development of artificial intelligence means creating consciousness in machines. Essentially, movies and television make it seem as though robots are the only reason to advance AI.

One of the biggest problems with this idea is that there’s a massive lack of understanding of the human brain (and how it truly works). Human consciousness is not very thoroughly understood and is difficult to define. The brain itself operates using electromagnetic connections which are not entirely understood either.

As it stands, there’s still a long way to go in terms of applying the fundamentals of neuroscience to design and engineer new machine learning models.

Anything that AI can do is not a result of what we define as “thinking.” In other words, we don’t have to worry about machines outsmarting us as long as we can’t outsmart ourselves.

Myth #2: Artificial Intelligence Breakthroughs Will Be Rapid

AI started to appear as an idea over 50 years ago. Through slow and deliberate studying and development of technology, neuroscience, mathematics, and psychology, breakthroughs in artificial intelligence have been made to get where we are today. Recent breakthroughs include self-driving cars, healthcare technologies, speech recognition, and even using machine learning and AI to design logos.

The integration of artificial intelligence in our existing technologies often goes unnoticed by the general public. These breakthroughs differ from what we’ve been “taught” to expect based on dystopian sci-fi movies about the future. The slow development of artificial intelligence is indicative of how it will continue to grow — slowly but surely.

Myth #3: Artificial Intelligence is Replacing Human Labour

One of the biggest concerns surrounding technological development and artificial intelligence is the effect on the economy and human jobs. With the assumption that AI can do everything that humans can do, there is a panic about human labour being replaced for less expensive machines.

This worry is based on two myths, the first being that artificial intelligence can replicate human capabilities and skills completely. In fact, artificial intelligence is developed with a very narrow skill-set which is only capable of accomplishing very specific tasks. Humans, on the other hand, are much more well-rounded and capable of far more than artificial intelligence is.

The second myth is that lower skilled jobs could be replaced entirely with machines. Truthfully, very few positions could be replaced by artificial intelligence and the jobs would be replaced with positions which required higher skill sets, such as managing, monitoring, and repairing the machines involved. AI are also incapable of replicating human emotions and instincts which are necessary in so many positions.

Myth #4: Artificial Intelligence Will Take Over Humanity

The most popular and pertinent myth circulated in mainstream media is that of artificial intelligence overtaking humanity. There are many things to consider here.

Firstly, there are already some computers that can outperform humans in categories such as chess and mathematics, however those computers are not capable of the things that make humans unique: sentience, emotion, reasoning, and consciousness.

This means that computers are unlikely to outsmart us and take over the world. It also means that robots are unlikely to be motivated to take over the world - at least in the next century.

Illustration izabellita / Freepik

Believers of this myth also ignore another key factor: humans develop artificial intelligence. AI does not create nor design itself. AI is only capable of what it has been designed to do.

If artificial intelligence were capable of morality, it would be the morality that it had been programmed with. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember that sci-fi exists to tell a compelling story, not to demonstrate accurate predictions of the direction technology is going.

One way to avoid becoming susceptible to believing these myths is to do outside research on artificial intelligence. It becomes obvious how useful and accessible artificial intelligence is becoming. From aiding in providing healthcare to helping design custom logos. Remember to think critically about how popular media represents technology and what the technologies are capable of.

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