Most experts hopeful AI will have positive effect on humans

By 2030, a majority of experts believe humans will be better off because of AI and related technology systems, with many expressing optimism about the future of healthcare, according to a report by Pew Research Center.

In a canvassing survey, the organization asked nearly 1,000 experts if the emergence of AI continues to spread, will people be better off than they are currently. Overall, 63 percent of respondents said they’re hopeful most individuals will be better off by 2030, while 37 percent said people won’t be better off.

While concerns focused on the “long-term impact” AI tools may have on the “essential elements of being human,” the most optimism about AI use was expressed for the healthcare industry, specifically for diagnostics and improving patient care, according to the report.

“They were also enthusiastic about AI’s role in contributing to broad public-health programs built around massive amounts of data that may be captured in the coming years about everything from personal genomes to nutrition,” the report stated. “Additionally, a number of these experts predicted that AI would abet long-anticipated changes in formal and informal education systems.”

Greg Shannon, chief scientist for the CERT Division at Carnegie Mellon University, said AI has the potential to help various areas of healthcare, but those who don’t know how to use the technology may suffer.

“Life will definitely be better as AI extends lifetimes, from health apps that intelligently ‘nudge’ us to health, to warnings about impending heart/stroke events, to automated healthcare for the underserved (remote) and those who need extended care (elder care),” Shannon told Pew. “As to liberty, there are clear risks. AI affects agency by creating entities with meaningful intellectual capabilities for monitoring, enforcing and even punishing individuals. Those who know how to use it will have immense potential power over those who don’t/can’t.”

Charles Zhen, a machine learning and AI researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, said though he expects AI to be more powerful in 2030, he doesn’t believe it will completely take over human tasks.

“A patient checking into a hospital will be directed to the correct desk by a robot. The receptionist will be aided by software that listens to their conversation with the patient and automatically populates the information fields without needing the receptionist to type the information,” Zhen said. “Another program cross-references the database in the cloud to check for errors. The patient’s medical images would first be automatically labeled by a computer program before being sent to a radiologist.”