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AI aims to assist humans, not replace them

Mr Ben Gibran paints a rather gloomy picture of the all-encompassing influence of artificial intelligence (AI), and the manner in which it is likely to penetrate the entire domain of our existence ("Unwise to give AI unfettered access to networks"; May 8).

Most of us benefit from the convenience that technology brings, so it is seen as a positive change.

However, people also have a fear of change because we are creatures of habit. Advancement in science can be unsettling since humans prefer order, and therefore have rules and regulations which most will not risk disrupting.

Man's intelligence is seen as natural or born of sound reasoning; anything that is replicated is seen as inferior since it is artificial, and therefore, not to be trusted. Because AI can now think and imitate our functions, we feel threatened by it.

The line between computers recommending the course of action and making decisions may also become blurred.

AI is stronger, faster and more accurate. It has the propensity to destroy jobs that were previously reliant on workers, and may one day actually take control of society.

The concerns of professionals about how far technology has encroached on their turf are, hence, understandable.

But advocates of AI are not claiming that technology will take over the role of highly skilled workers any time soon. It can even be argued that technology is unable to tell, with absolute certainty, the best course of action for a professional to take.

AI aims not to replace conscious human reasoning, but to enable skilled workers to arrive at better decisions, using the computer's cognitive capabilities to assist their trained minds.

We must face up to the fact that technology does cause disruption to mankind. But we have historically adapted to such developments, and will continue to master technology, instead of being overwhelmed by it.

Rather than be afraid that computers might destroy us, we should appreciate how technology can work with us.

Yes, some workers may be made redundant in the process, but perhaps industries that create occupations and careers that do not exist now may emerge.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'AI aims to assist humans, not replace them'. Print Edition | Subscribe