Ethical Complications and Risks of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: A Double-Edged Sword

One of the most revolutionary ideas in human history, artificial intelligence's power and potential would free people from the restraints of poverty and bad health, among other human wants. The foundation of technological utopianism is the concept that developments in artificial intelligence would result in the development of a perfect society. Superintelligent robots' efficacy and efficiency will enable governments, legal frameworks, and social norms to advance the welfare of all citizens. The advances will also elevate human beings in a post-scarcity era characterised by minimal disparities and suffering. It will allow civilisations to realise the concept of equality, where people will air their opinions, dilute power structures, and foster individualistic thinking. While the discourse, determinism, and imageries are primarily anticipatory, Google's DeepMind and Amazon's Alexa highlight the potential of artificial intelligence, as the technology can reach meanings and make connections without relying on pre-defined behavioural algorithms. However, the quintessential notions of life fail to consider that the technology is a Faustian bargain with as many benefits as harms. While artificial intelligence has the power to transform all tenets of humanity, unethical applications can affect life in undesirable ways. AI threatens not only the labour market but also the quality of life, safety of the people, the welfare state, the holistic functioning, as well as environmental integrity.

The Disruption of Labour Markets

One of the best understood harmful impacts of artificial intelligence and robotics is the disruption of labour markets. The observation is based on a widely accepted concept, where the use of the machines in the workplace always displaces the need for human intervention in manual tasks. While the issue is an age-old concern that first emerged during industrialisation in the 19th century, the anxiety of smart machines is even higher as artificial intelligence threatens even nontechnical areas that have not been mechanised. The case is evident in the use of robots in clinical environments. Unlike the use of decision support systems that only facilitated caregiving processes, AI models have superhuman prowess. For instance, the Enlitic's system is 50% better at grading malignancy when compared to 7% among experienced human radiologists (Zakharov, 2016). Besides suggesting areas that need further testing, the system also has a zero chance of missing cancer. The Enlitic's diagnostic system on trial in Australia has also provided promising results in the detecting of wrist fractures While the tremendous potential of the Enlitic's system is a desirable issue in attempts to make health care service more efficient and accurate, the AI application is a threat to current opportunities held by highly trained and specialised radiologists. The anxiety is relatable considering the considerable cost and time need for the training of a reliable radiologist. Unlike the industrial revolution machines that reduced the demand for manual labourers, unemployment triggered by smart devices is predicted to be far-reaching, as the cognitive capabilities will offset the need for human input in both routine manual and non-routine administrative tasks (Petropoulos, 2017). For instance, the superintelligent diagnostic devices can automate several sectors, thus reducing the need for buying highly expensive assistive equipment for all clinical areas. Besides offering specialised services, computer capital is a threat with industry-wide concerns. In one of the studies exploring job polarisation in the United States, Frey and Osborne (2017, pp. 254-280) reveal that intelligent software has increased the potential of computerising 702 professions, including taxi persons and delivery drivers. According to the study, an industry-wide adoption of artificial intelligence would also lead to a loss of 47% of current jobs, as receptionists, security officers, rental clerks, cashiers, accountants, telemarketers can all be replaced by the computer capital. Frey and Osborne (2017 pp. 254-280) also call for ethical adoption of artificial intelligence, noting that 35% of the UK workforce, as well as 49% of the Japanese laboured in non-creative fields, is susceptible to automation. While smart devices have been lauded as the future of the industrial revolution, there is a need for regulation to protect the workforce, as the application is a threat to the labour market.

Addiction and Dependency

Another reason for careful consideration of the use of artificial intelligence is setting right goals as the technology can result in addiction and dependency. While the advancement offers a promising future in improving human lives. Manifold, it has a downside where people will be unable to manage in lives without using their devices. Warren Ellis captures the dystopian concern in his transhumanist comic book, where the protagonist owns a superintelligence machine that can prepare everything, including meals and weapons (Crabapple, 2013). The cyberpunk series highlight the possibility of artificial intelligence culminating in low life, where the values of the human race will be under threat. The concern is real, as recent breakthroughs have made it possible for robots to perform activities that were previously reserved for human beings. For instance, the concept of deep learning has been one of the most revolutionary ideas in artificial intelligence, where a complex set of algorithms simulates the working of the neurological system. The layered strata of silicon neurons allow a robot to not only analyse inputs and produce desirable outputs but also remember the past event and express non-verbal cues (van Hooijdonk, 2017). The data processing capabilities of the new microchips have allowed machines to learn, a gain that has been enhanced by the incorporation of graphics used in gaming. The abilities have permitted supercomputers to have natural language processing and facial recognition (van Hooijdonk, 2017). One area where the artificial intelligence concepts have been embraced is conversational technologies in toys and dolls. The interactive and talking doll has allowed the realisation of the idea of 'little mom', where models have not only a resemblance to a human being but also impressive capabilities. Sex dolls can also sustain conversations. While the application is an exciting development, it is a threat to the social nature of human beings, where they naturally express companionship with other people. Critics note that allowing AI to occupy a more expanded personal space will diminish capacity and willingness to work. For instance, Amazon Alexa has dramatically affected social development in children. Besides failing to learn the niceties of ordinary language, the black cylinder cannot nurture natural traits such as anger management and making requests (Borden and Armstrong, 2016, pp.28). The explosion of such development will thus turn children into raging beings, where they will overlook the value of courtesy and politeness in human interaction. The coddling will also increase the socioeconomic burden of current lifestyle conditions associated with debilitating symptoms such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases (Pillsbury and Pray, pp.156). The undesirable effects call for conscious adoption of AI, where future advances should not downgrade capabilities or dehumanise people.

Safety Concerns and Poorly Specified Goals

Finally, AI can be very detrimental when goals are poorly specified because of safety concerns. The technology is a dual-use development, where it is capable of transformative outcomes as well as far-reaching harm. While the application wants to allow robots to express human-like intelligence, most experts agree that the machines can never be programmed to undertake creative works (Future of Life Institute, 2016). An underlying aspect of the shortfall is the inability of smart devices to deal with emotional vagaries of a human being. The failure to express feelings have raised dystopian questions of safety, where critics suppose that AI will become a weapon of choice for undertaking malicious tasks such as wars and instigating violence. The concern is evidenced by the current warfare race, where a number of countries are developing autonomous weapons that run on artificial intelligence systems. Identifying the weakness of the computer system may have devastating outcomes. If the control of the robot is in the wrong hands such as cybercriminals and terrorists, the autonomous weapons could be used in perpetrating mass violence on the civilian. Successful hacking of an automated AI model in areas such as the trading system, transport device, or power grid can also be used in sabotaging the economy of a country (Future of Life Institute, 2016). Another safety concern surrounding attempts to refine the technology is the issue of autonomy of the system. The primacy is evident in the current AI race, where countries are designing robots that will be extremely difficult to turn off by an enemy state. While the development solves the concern of a robot being controlled by malicious persons, it does not sufficiently resolve the fear of human beings losing control even in narrow AI levels of intelligence. Besides the short-term concerns, another safety question is on the overall outcome of AI on the human race. The realisation of the techno-utopianism ideology raised critical questions about the future of the human race. The existential risk is evident in the Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest, where organisms sharing resources in an ecological niche focus on outdoing each other. While AI system is programmed to engage in beneficial activities, sentient robots have the potential of turning destructive to achieve their goals. The observation is based on the fact that the strong artificial intelligence gives them cognitive ability equivalent to that of human beings. Their capability can also pass both the Turing and the Lovelace test, allowing the robot to do things outside their cipher algorithm (Parnas, 2017; Yar, 2014, pp.24). They are indistinguishable from a human. In the event the current intelligence explosion supports technologist quest for building self-sustaining sentient artificial intelligence with refined cognitive abilities, the smart devices may trigger competition with the human race. They will undergo recursive self-improvement and perhaps emerge as superior beings far much dominant than people. They will compete for spaces, resulting in displacement and untold suffering. The concern calls for ethics in AI, where the development goals should be based on the entirety rather than fanciful thoughts.

Positive Contributions of AI

Proponents of AI consider the technology as one of the most revolutionary ideas in human civilisation because of its immense contribution in sociocultural, political, and economic domains. Cognitive science is a powerful product that is associated with a greater degree of precision. The accuracy has found massive relevance in space exploration, where intelligent robots are being used in collecting data on military, commercial, and espionage activities, among other economic and political motives. One reason why machines are preferred over human subjects is their endurance to hostile environments. AI is also a technology of immense worth in extraction of natural resources, as the complex machines can overcome the current human limitations in exploring ocean floors. The predictive ability of Google has also revolutionised metadata uses, where individuals can make searches based on their locality and utility. The intelligence of smartphones has also transformed the delivery of critical services, where developments such as mobile applications are increasingly being adopted in promoting efficiency in the delivery of financial services as well as sending stress signals in emergency cases (Columbus, 2017). The artificial intelligence algorithm is also being used in curbing the high rates of cybercrimes. The digital assistants are also being employed in the delivery of customer care. Unlike human beings who can be distracted by emotions, the judgment of robots is based on logical processes that make them more efficient. While audible GPS has allowed human beings to travel to new places because of their accuracy in giving directions, Alexa and Siri have also resolved loneliness because of their capability of answering fundamental questions. While it has allowed, the globe realises the aspiration of better, faster, smarter, cheaper, and smaller devices, AI is a Faustian bargain with many shortfalls. The creation of AI demands high cost, a requirement that has excluded developing nations as only the advanced economies have the financial muscle to support the cognitive science. Maintaining the AI system is also demanding because of the research and gradation of software to make the machines responsive to emerging issues. While it offers a promising future with minimal disparities, AI could deepen the gap between the global north and the global south. Safety also remains a glaring shortcoming of the superintelligence models (Future of Life Institute, 2016). Despite their capability to express human-like cognitive functions, smart devices cannot uphold moral values or observe ethics in their decision-making process. Their judgment is also limited to well-known situations, where they break down or pick wrong choices in the event of unfamiliarity (Parnas, 2017).


In conclusion, an unethical application of artificial intelligence can blur the positive effects of the technology in transforming humanity. Despite its transformative potential, there is a need for regulation in future developments as AI can affect life in undesirable ways. It threatens not only the labour market, but also the quality of life, the safety of the people, the welfare state, and environmental integrity. The need for controls is founded on the far-reaching implications of the automation. Unlike the previous cataclysms that had similar outcome such as the Industrial Revolution, the AI reorientation will upset people holding routine as well as non-routine jobs at a faster rate. There is a need for more regulations allow governments to make changes in current socioeconomic model to withstand the AI transition. Controls are also necessary to deal with moral questions surrounding sentient robots that are indistinguishable from human beings, as such a development could lead to advanced systems far much dominant beyond current checks.


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Crabapple, M., 2013. One murder is statistically utterly unimportant: a conversation with warren ellis. [Online] The Paris Review. Available at: [Accessed Nov. 11, 2017].

Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. A, 2017. The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation? Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 114, 254-280.

Future of Life Institute, 2016. Benefits & risks of artificial intelligence. [Online] Future of Life Institute. Available at: [Accessed Nov. 11, 2017].

Parnas, D., 2017. The real risks of artificial intelligence. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Nov. 11, 2017].

Petropoulos, G., 2017. Do we understand the impact of artificial intelligence on employment? [Online] Available at: [Accessed Nov. 11, 2017].

Pillsbury, L. and Pray, L., 2011. Leveraging food technology for obesity prevention and reduction efforts: workshop summary. National Academies Press.

van Hooijdonk, R., 2017. Is our addiction to technology turning us into helpless, spoiled brats? [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Nov. 11, 2017].

Yar, M., 2014. The cultural imaginary of the Internet: virtual utopias and dystopias. Springer.

Zakharov, T., 2016. Is automation the future of radiology? [Online] Available at: [Accessed Nov. 11, 2017].

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