Artificial Intelligence: A Great Servant, A Bad Master

Creepy AI Head, Binary Code Backdrop

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Professor Amtul Razzaq Carmichael, UK

The online world is both excited and nervous about the recent unprecedented progress in the development of artificial intelligence (AI). Witnessing the excellent performance of various AI platforms makes it clear that these have got great potential to assist, enhance, and substantially progress human achievements. Despite the huge capabilities of AI, the systems of transparency and accountability are not clear. There is no global consensus on ethical values that should govern AI. So how should we treat AI, as a great servant or a bad master?

AI as A Great Servant           

The potential benefits that human beings can harness by appropriate use of AI are immense. For example, human beings are not naturally good at excelling in tedious and repetitive tasks and boredom can lead to mistakes. AI can undertake repetitive tasks by automation with greater efficiency and precision. If human beings retain control of AI, they can harness the processing power of the AI to enhance safety. Any potential equipment malfunction or structural weakness can be picked up using AI.

AI can provide access to a vast number of facts in a relatively short time and has immense power to process large amounts of data. This enables AI to recognise patterns and make predictions. This is a highly valuable tool for assisting human decision-making. If appropriate safeguards and regulations are put in place, then the information generated by AI can enhance the ability of human beings to make more reliable and accurate judgments based on their preferences and behaviours. It could be argued that improving efficiency by using AI will reduce costs. This can also potentially free human beings to focus on innovation and discovery.

So, if used as a servant, AI could be potentially extremely useful by promoting efficiency, productivity, and safety. This can enhance the quality of life of individuals and develop communities. The capabilities that AI can deliver are transformational to human existence.

AI as A Bad Master               

But if allowed to act as a master, AI could compromise the privacy of our lives. Algorithms designed by AI could produce systematic biases in our ways of life and cause discrimination and discord in society. As AI can only be as good as the data it processes, if the input is flawed, inaccurate or biased, then AI will simply perpetuate inaccuracies and biases. In certain circumstances, AI-generated outputs could manipulate and influence the way we see the world. This can lead to polarisation and disharmony.

In a recent audience with the Alislam website team, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba), the Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, emphasised the importance of caution and responsibility in using AI tools. His Holiness (aba) advised that all relevant AI-produced output should be checked for accuracy by experts and scholars of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. When responding to a question about using AI tools to prepare training material for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness advised, “Artificial intelligence is not going to write something by itself, rather it is going to produce something based on the points you entered. Now it is possible that some wrong information can also appear through it.” His Holiness’s advice is that scholars should edit and analyse such articles for any apparent or subtle inaccuracies. So, it is OK to use AI for the generation of templates and basic information. After that, we need to apply higher executive and cognitive functions to assess these for accuracy and appropriateness. His Holiness expressed the importance of being vigilant regarding the contents prepared by AI. 

Giving an example of how AI can introduce bias and inaccuracies, His Holiness said, “If you’re going to write about the positive and negative aspects of something, AI may unduly emphasise the negative aspects. If you are preaching to someone, or even an Ahmadi, they may not be able to analyse information properly as to what is correct and what is incorrect.”  

If not harnessed appropriately, the power of AI could be harmful. Inappropriate use of AI generated information can perpetuate negative information and biased attitudes. By blindly following the search outcomes of AI, those with limited knowledge of deep philosophical religious concepts, may be misguided. If followed blindly, AI can create the illusion of knowledge, instead of true, deep, and clearly understood knowledge. His Holiness commented, “One needs AI when proper means are not available or where one does not want to make any effort, hard work, or study for themselves. On the other hand, you are emphasising reading and studying.”

A Word of Caution                  

His Holiness also warned against the possible role of AI in terms of spreading inaccurate information. His Holiness advised to be proactive and have processes and procedures in place to be ahead in countering any malicious AI activity. His Holiness advised, “You need to make sure that there is no misuse of artificial intelligence. The information available on it in the form of books, e-books, audiobooks etc. are not misused. And if there is such an instance, then how would it be countered? You need to reflect upon this as well.” Advising to be proactive about the potential harms of AI, His Holiness stated, “… you must assess it from this perspective as well. It should not be the case that once an incident has occurred, then we begin to take measures against it, rather we ought to take precautionary measures from the start.”  

His Holiness emphasised the importance of vigilance and preparedness for the misuse of AI. His Holiness said, “We need to come up with a way of securing it. So that others should not be able to present our information in the wrong way. Therefore, you will need to investigate this from now and plan accordingly that if such and such situation occurred, then how would we counter this.” His Holiness advised us to be prepared and safeguard against the misuse of AI by saying, ‘We cannot rule out any possibility.

What does AI say about AI?

It is appropriate to conclude this article with the words of AI. When asked if AI was a great servant or a bad master, ChatGPT replied, “Ultimately, whether AI is “good” or “bad” for humanity depends on how it is developed, deployed, and used. It is up to humans to ensure that AI is used in a responsible and ethical manner that maximises its benefits and minimises its risks.”

About the Author: Professor Amtul Razzaq Carmichael MD, M Ed, FRCS (Gen Surg.), MBBS, is a consultant. She qualified in 1987 with gold medals for academic Excellence and undertook her surgical training at major teaching hospitals in London, Edinburgh and Philadelphia. She has authored many articles for major peer-reviewed scientific journals. She is a senior member of The Review of Religions Editorial Board as well as the Assistant Manager.