Seeking the Morality of Artificial Intelligence
    Category: Column By : James Kallman Read : 503 Date : Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 12:37:15

    Imagine walking into your nearest health center where a retina scan confirms your identity as you enter the cubicle, thus pulling from the central filing system your medical history, including your individual genome sequence, while a robotic nurse takes your blood pressure, temperature, and so on. Updating your records and adding the symptoms you describe, your medical appliance of the future will swiftly diagnose the likely ailment and prescribe the treatment required or further tests to be undertaken.

    It may all seem a little impersonal, but the medical profession is just one area of professional expertise in which robotics and artificial intelligence are replacing humans. Already the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a system that can automate delivery of low-level anesthesia, while surgeons are using automated systems to aid in low-invasive procedures. From the pharmacy side of things, meanwhile, robots have taken over operations in some hospitals, drawing the correct amount of prescribed drugs from their containers and delivering the correctly labeled dosages to the individual nursing stations throughout the hospital. What’s more, unlike humans, they don’t get tired and make mistakes. 

    This is vitally important in the medical profession, of course, especially as medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. It’s not just carelessness or tiredness, but also a lack of time to keep abreast with the latest medical advances. This is where the likes of IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology has come to the fore, providing in some tests a 90% diagnostic success rate for lung cancers compared to just 50% by humans.  

    Yet the ability to crunch vast amounts of data and extract patterns and likely scenarios based on probability is useful in other professions. This is the future of financial audits, since by employing Watson-type technology, larger amounts of data will be processed than current sampling techniques permit. Swiftly alerting the human auditor to areas of question, the resulting completed report could be posted online to enable every stakeholder, including regulators, transparent access to the results of operations.    

    Other professions threatened include legal associates poring through millions of documents in the discovery process, while financial analysts and advisors will find it increasingly difficult to match the results of predictive systems analyzing big data. Nor is artificial intelligence restricted to just the evaluation side of things, as media outlets are already publishing reports on diverse subjects such as corporate earnings and sports events all written by machines.

    What links all this, plus other areas such as music, poetry and even artworks, is that each is based on the evaluation of past experiences to determine the most likely or desired future outcome. Looking forward, how will artificial intelligence cope with situations where past human experiences have been colored by the moral climate of the time. Will artificial intelligence develop its own morality, or will it follow the lead provided by its human creator? Only time will tell.