Editorial: Artificial Intelligence is full of promise as well as peril

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News Letter editorial on Wednesday August 2 2023:

​​It is almost a quarter of a century since Stephen Speilberg’s film 'A.I. Artificial Intelligence' was a box office hit. The movie focuses on a human-type robot which begins to experience love and then almost kills a person, leading to a decision to shut the robot down – to end its simulated human life.

The film should be re-released today given the interest that there now is in artificial intelligence, and indeed concern.

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There is concern about AI becoming so powerful and intelligent that it takes charge of humankind.

There is concern that it will be a tool through which smart humans who understand complex technology and finance can make great fortunes, thus widening the already huge gap between rich and poor, and so causing massive societal unrest.

But there are also huge advantages that will come from AI, in many ways. It might even hasten a technically driven revolution in our lifestyles that means that the world 150 years from now, in the late 2170s, looks as different from today as our world would look to those who lived 150 years ago in the 1870s.

Some years ago an oncologist who had been a Northern Ireland academic cancer physician, WS Lowry, wrote a book in which he predicted a significant decline in the need for doctors. Many roles once done by medics, such as tests, would in the future be done by machines.

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Now a study has pointed to just such an outcome, finding that artificial intelligence detection tools can read breast cancer screening images and could spot cancer in mammograms as readily as two radiologists.

The world is full of problems and at times the future can seem to be full of peril. And yet such anxiety can miss the scientific improvements that have revolutionised our lives for the better, and will most likely continue to do so.