Era Mziu 19/10/2022

Will our creation become the end of us?

In the 1960s a bunch of kids were interviewed to give their predictions on what the year 2000 will look like. Some of the predictions they made seemed to be a concern for them. They predicted that robots would be in charge, more countries would develop more advanced nuclear bombs, the world would become overpopulated, people would get bored and unproductive, technological developments would cause unemployment and the only jobs available would be for people with high Intelligence Quotient (IQ). To be honest, they were not far off at all. Today, more than 60 years later, Russia is threatening to use nuclear weapons, we have enough jobs but not enough people willing to work, and we seem to have rolled out the red carpet for artificial intelligence ready to take over. 

In this op-ed, I will be focusing solely on artificial intelligence and will be giving my take on the impact of AI on the international community. Today Siri, an AI assistant, turns on the lights, turns on music and changes it, turns on alarms, Google searches and reads articles for you. Now it does not write an essay for your Ethics in International Politics class, but besides that, she does pretty much everything. Even though it has made our lives more efficient, there are some ethical issues that revolve around artificial intelligence, in our personal lives, and the international community. In the following paragraphs, I will unfold my opinion on the impact artificial intelligence has had on international development, international society, and climate change as well as the ethical issues that come with it.

“International development is the pursuit of a better world for all, through the elimination of poverty, discrimination and injustice”1 Artificial intelligence has been a tool that developed countries have used in the quest to help underdeveloped countries. Artificial intelligence can conduct massive, complicated data and analyze it, which gives developed countries the opportunity of solving some of the most challenging problems in international development. AI used for international development includes “innovation that knows where to build a school, applications that learns what the students need to learn, algorithm that can learn where best to relocate refugees”2, etc. If used responsibly, AI could be the future when it comes to international development, but it is also is prone to making consequential decisions about people. This consequential decision-making is an issue since the algorithm that reaches decisions can be outdated, not to mention sampling biases and unrepresentative data. Now the ethical issues and concerns when it comes to AI and international development are a few, including fairness, accountability, and responsibility. Firstly, AI systems are built by humans, who may intentionally or unintentionally set up biased algorithms which over time build biased outputs. Secondly, there can be a lack of accountability for the decisions taken by AI. Thirdly, naive and overconfident developers, who have a good amount of trust in AI, have completely detached from the direct responsibility they have for the outcomes that the system produces. 

International security is another field where the presence of AI has risen ethical concerns. For starters, cyber-attacks on international security have been a concern for quite some time, since these attacks may cause the failure of military equipment, theft of sensitive and top-secret data, electric blackouts, etc. Governments use cybersecurity to protect themselves from such attacks. The incorporation of artificial intelligence in cybersecurity has been a great help in stopping these threats since it has identified unknown threats, learns more over time, handles big data, provides better security, etc. But, artificial intelligence is also used by cybercriminals who are building highly sophisticated attacks, by avoiding security systems and detection. 

The wide range of opportunities that AI proves for cybercriminals to safely deliver their attacks is in itself un-ethical. Drones incorporate artificial intelligence as well. They are aircrafts without pilots on board that are navigated by remote control. Drones are being used in international security follow fleeing suspects, provide real-time tracking information, etc. When AI is incorporated into drones, they have the ability to increase the quality of surveillance, provide more precision strikes, enables image recognition and detection of objects while flying, and when used in warfare they become lethal to the ground forces. The ethical issues surrounding AI-incorporated drones include leaders that may be prone to entering wars as drones eliminate the need to put troops on the ground. Even if wars are not initiated, the possession of drones can be seen as a threat from neighboring countries, causing security dilemmas and limit the potential collaboration between states. Another ethical issue is the lack of accountability, since the drone pilots may become disassociated from the casualties because the whole thing may feel like a video game. The other ethical issue is the lack of government transparency regarding drone casualties in the name of protecting national security.

Another global concern is climate change and global warming, in which AI has a dual role. Dual role in terms of AI being a contributor to climate change itself, but also AI as a mean of mitigating climate changes. AI can be used to mitigate climate change by supporting timely and proper decisions that need to be taken to reduce CO2 emissions, but on the other hand, AI is part of the problem as it created CO2 emissions. Apple and Microsoft for example have announced that they will be carbon negative by 2030, implying that they are releasing emissions that are contributing to climate change as of right now. When creating AI technologies that contribute to the mitigation of climate change, ethical issues should be taken into consideration, ethical issues that have already been discussed. Even though AI is being used as a means to help people globally, the ethical issues such as global warming, the possibility to misusing data, ignoring privacy, and manipulating data can’t be overlooked  

Artificial intelligence is created with the purpose of helping people. It has the potential of having a long lasting positive impact in all industries and fields imaginable. Unfortunately, if AI is used for personal gain and is taken advantage of for evil, we could can say that we are digging our own graves. The misuse of artificial intelligence is where all the ethical issues and concerns come down to. If used properly, we will have a bright future ahead of us. If not, artificial intelligence will be like Ginie’s super power in the hands of Jafar from Disney’s movie Aladdin.

What is International Development? | International Development | The Salvation Army. (2021). International Development Australia. https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/international-development/learn/what-is-international- development/

2 Jonathan Hatch. (n.d.). 6 ways artificial intelligence is being used in international development. Bond. https://www.bond.org.uk/news/2019/10/6-ways-artificial-intelligence-is-being-used-in-international-development

Illustration: Bigeye

Read the article in Albanian here.