There’s a reason why artificial intelligence is sometimes referred to as “software 2.0”: It represents the most significant technological advance in decades. Like any groundbreaking invention, it raises concerns about the future, and much of the media focus is on the threats it brings. And yet, at no point in human history has a single technology offered so many potential benefits to humanity. AI is a tool whose goodness depends on how we use it.

In 2022, I hope that the general public gains a greater appreciation of the benefits that AI brings to their lives. There are misconceptions and fears stemming from cases where AI has been used intrusively, and biased systems may have an unfairly adverse impact on some groups of people in areas like law enforcement, finance, insurance, and healthcare. Nonetheless, learning algorithms have shown potential in fighting Covid-19, detecting wildfires before they rage out of control, and anticipating catastrophic failure of things like buildings and airplanes.

AI — deep learning models especially — can be a powerful instrument for social good. Computers never tire. They learn from more data than a human can absorb in a lifetime and enable people to accomplish some tasks much faster and with fewer errors. Applying these capabilities to problems like food production, healthcare, and climate change could bring unprecedented progress.

Modern daily life requires AI as well. Social media platforms couldn’t exist without automated moderation models that root out toxicity and hate, and these problems threaten to escalate to a new level as human interactions move to virtual reality. Billions of people use the largest of these networks. If a major social media company were to moderate its content manually, it would need to hire a million people. Moderation is not scalable without machine learning models.

Another hope I have for 2022 is that AI gains newcomers with engineering backgrounds rather than machine learning or data science. You shouldn’t need an advanced degree to build AI, and as the technology matures and requires less coding it will become easier to create ML models without knowing their internal workings.

Increased access to the field is actually a key to realizing the broad social benefits of AI. A more diverse AI workforce would build less-biased systems. Equitable models are paramount as society automates more and more. Banks use AI models to determine who gets a mortgage, and employers use them to determine who gets a job interview. Machine learning models have a strong influence on society, and while the wrong ones can cause harm, the right ones can effect a cycle of positive change.      

Matt Zeiler is the founder and CEO of Clarifai, an AI platform that helps enterprises transform unstructured image, video, text, and audio data into actionable insights.


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