AI has huge potential – but it won’t solve all our problems

Hysteria about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. There is no shortage of sensationalist news about how AI can cure diseases, accelerate human innovation and improve human creativity. From the headlines alone, you would think we already live in a future where AI has infiltrated every aspect of society.

While AI has opened up a wealth of promising opportunities, it has also led to a mindset that can be best described as “AI solutionism”. This is the attitude that, given enough data, machine learning algorithms can solve all of humanity’s problems.

There is a big problem with this idea. Instead of supporting AI progress, it actually jeopardises the value of machine intelligence by disregarding important AI safety principles and setting unrealistic expectations about what AI can really do for humanity.

AI dreams and delusions

In only a few years, AI solutionism has spread from Silicon Valley’s technology evangelists to government officials and policymakers around the world. The pendulum has swung, away from the dystopian notion that AI will destroy humanity, towards the utopian belief that our algorithmic saviour has arrived.

Governments are now pledging support to national AI initiatives and competing in a technological and rhetorical arms race to dominate the burgeoning machine learning sector. The UK government has vowed to invest £300m in AI research, to position itself as a leader in the field. Enamoured with the transformative potential of AI, French president Emmanuel Macron has committed to turning France into a global AI hub.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government is increasing its AI prowess with a national plan to create a Chinese AI industry worth $150 billion by 2030. Many countries are hoping to dominate the Fourth Industrial Revolution. AI solutionism is on the rise, and it is here to stay.