Artificial intelligence is already a ubiquitous presence in our lives. Every time we ask Siri to locate the nearest coffee shop, tell Alexa to turn off the lights, or set a Google calendar reminder to give a favorite pet her medication, we’re using AI.
New capabilities grounded in natural language processing, visual and text recognition, machine learning, and more seem to emerge with each new update of our devices, often without much fanfare. Features such as autocomplete and autoreply, object recognition and background editing in photos, facial recognition, and augmented reality have become commonplace.
Now, with the much-heralded arrival of generative AI, personal technology is about take an exponential leap forward. From suggesting recipes and workout tips to providing instant language translation for travelers to helping us learn new skills, generative AI will enrich many day-to-day activities and simplify tasks and situations that once seemed difficult, if not overwhelming.
By lowering the barriers to entry for pursuits that once required years of training—painting and drawing, for example, or coding—generative AI can allow people to explore new modes of creativity. And by shortening rote tasks or eliminating them altogether, it can offer one of the most valuable quality-of-life improvements of all: more time.
Other advances are on the way. Generative AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots soon could become a universal gateway to the internet, allowing for enhanced personalization of search results. Around the house, developments in the artificial intelligence of things (a combination of AI and IoT technologies) are opening the door for ultraconvenient smart homes that can learn and respond to residents’ habits—automatically adjusting temperature controls and cooking entire meals without human assistance, for example.
The possibilities are nearly limitless. At the same time, there is a very real risk of worsening our quality of life if we don’t deploy AI in a responsible and equitable way.
The potential benefits of AI go far beyond creature comforts. Care tech—including AI-powered sensors, cameras, and other devices—can help health professionals monitor the health and well-being of their patients and help working caregivers monitor the safety of parents, children, and other dependents. Mobile apps and wearables powered by generative AI could encourage wellness and healthy behaviors via proactive, personalized nudges. And AI-powered chatbots can deliver affordable, on-demand mental health counseling.
Advances in AI are also improving accessibility, helping people with disabilities live their lives to the fullest. Auto-captioning technologies, for example, offer valuable support to the deaf and the hard of hearing, and text-recognition software assists the blind. Smart appliances and adaptive remote controls help users seamlessly perform tasks around the house.
Access is a fundamental concern with any new technology, of course, and we still have work to do on that front: nearly 3 billion people lack internet access, and smartphones and other connected devices remain unaffordable for some populations. AI holds extraordinary promise for building a more equal society, but to fulfill that promise we need to make certain that AI tools are available to everyone.
Access is not the only challenge we face. Generative AI will amplify the risks we already confront online, including the potential for misinformation, harassment, and the exposure of sensitive data. And because AI systems reflect the data on which they are trained, there is a risk of reproducing the biases inherent in that data. And as serious as these concerns are, they pale in comparison to the damage that could be done through malicious usage of generative AI.
Fortunately, AI can also be a tool for addressing these problems. Natural language processing and other AI-powered content recognition software can filter obscene or malicious content and identify fake news, hate speech, and other potentially harmful media; it can also detect cyberbullying and other forms of harassment. And while current chatbots have exhibited an occasional tendency toward misinformation—giving false responses as though they were correct—generative AI models are constantly being refined and updated through reinforcement learning and human feedback.
We’re still at the beginning of our AI journey. As the technology improves—and as we learn how to incorporate it into our daily lives in a responsible way—AI can play an important role in ensuring a better quality of life for everyone.
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