Threats and challenges of AI
The increasing reliance on AI systems also poses potential risks.
Underuse and overuse of AI
Underuse of AI is considered as a major threat: missed opportunities for the EU could mean poor implementation of major programmes, such as the EU Green Deal, losing competitive advantage towards other parts of the world, economic stagnation and poorer possibilities for people. Underuse could derive from public and business’ mistrust in AI, poor infrastructure, lack of initiative, low investments, or, since AI’s machine learning is dependent on data, from fragmented digital markets.
Overuse can also be problematic: investing in AI applications that prove not to be useful or applying AI to tasks for which it is not suited, for example using it to explain complex societal issues.
Liability: who is responsible for damage caused by AI?
An important challenge is to determine who is responsible for damage caused by an AI-operated device or service: in an accident involving a self-driving car. Should the damage be covered by the owner, the car manufacturer or the programmer?
If the producer was absolutely free of accountability, there might be no incentive to provide good product or service and it could damage people’s trust in the technology; but regulations could also be too strict and stifle innovation.
Threats of AI to fundamental rights and democracy
The results that AI produces depend on how it is designed and what data it uses. Both design and data can be intentionally or unintentionally biased. For example, some important aspects of an issue might not be programmed into the algorithm or might be programmed to reflect and replicate structural biases. In adcition, the use of numbers to represent complex social reality could make the AI seem factual and precise when it isn’t . This is sometimes referred to as mathwashing.
If not done properly, AI could lead to decisions influenced by data on ethnicity, sex, age when hiring or firing, offering loans, or even in criminal proceedings.
AI could severely affect the right to privacy and data protection. It can be for example used in face recognition equipment or for online tracking and profiling of individuals. In addition, AI enables merging pieces of information a person has given into new data, which can lead to results the person would not expect.
It can also present a threat to democracy; AI has already been blamed for creating online echo chambers based on a person’s previous online behaviour, displaying only content a person would like, instead of creating an environment for pluralistic, equally accessible and inclusive public debate. It can even be used to create extremely realistic fake video, audio and images, known as deepfakes, which can present financial risks, harm reputation, and challenge decision making. All of this could lead to separation and polarisation in the public sphere and manipulate elections.
AI could also play a role in harming freedom of assembly and protest as it could track and profile individuals linked to certain beliefs or actions.
AI impact on jobs
Use of AI in the workplace is expected to result in the elimination of a large number of jobs. Though AI is also expected to create and make better jobs, education and training will have a crucial role in preventing long-term unemployment and ensure a skilled workforce.