Here are the emerging technologies that have set off alarm bells for experts.
1. Artificial intelligence may overpower human autonomy.
The fear that computers will one day outsmart and out-muscle humans has been lent credence by scientists. Experts are already voicing concerns about the way AI is being used today, citing threats to privacy and governance. A few of these AI-driven technologies are explored below.
2. Facial recognition technology is reshaping our conception of privacy.
A team of researchers from NYU published a report warning of the risks of facial recognition technology. “What happens when we rely on black-boxed AI systems to judge the ‘interior life’ or worthiness of human beings? Some of these products cite deeply controversial theories that are long disputed in the psychological literature, but are are being treated by AI startups as fact.”
3. Governments are letting computers make automated decisions that affect people’s lives.
In 2016, in Arkansas, a computer program decided to cut the hours of home care from a state disability program for Tammy Dobbs, a woman with cerebral palsy. Dobbs and other disabled citizens of Arkansas ultimately won a lawsuit against the state to reverse the AI-driven decision, but damage to their quality of life was already done, the AI Now report says. It’s an example of the risks of AI-driven government decisions, an increasing trend across local and national agencies.
4. Algorithm-driven content feeds can manipulate people en masse.
Social media feeds are increasingly determined by AI-driven algorithms that are opaque to average users. While social media giants have an interest in using algorithms to keep users engaged or promote ads, experts warn that these algorithms have the potential to be used to spread misinformation or manipulate people.
5. Spyware, ransomware, and hacks are getting more advanced.
As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the methods used by hackers to steal people’s data or hold tech infrastructure hostage for monetary gain. In recent years, hacking is only on the rise — and it’s becoming increasingly profitable.
6. 3D printing and computer-aided design have unintended side effects.
3D printing technology was heralded as an innovation that would empower individuals to create products on their own.However, this empowerment comes with downsides. One highly publicized example was the ability to 3D print guns, which is now largely illegal but still technically possible. Additionally, experts warn that 3D printing is highly wasteful, using up a lot of energy and producing plastics and noxious emissions
7. Gene editing could reshape society, but the side effects are unknown.
Since the discovery of genetics, scientists have theorized about the possibility of editing peoples’ DNA to lengthen life or cure diseases. Recently, this aspiration started to become a reality, with one Chinese scientist editing two human embryos in an attempt to make them immune to AIDS. This emerging technology is still rife with risks, however. In the case of the AIDS cure, new research suggests that the procedure to make people immune can also shave years off their life.