Sentient AI: A Benefit or Risk?
We as humans tend to think of ourselves as the most intelligent, evolved creatures on the planet. However, this may not necessarily be true. There’s no reason we can’t build a machine as smart (or smarter) than us. That raises an interesting question: If we do create super-intelligent AI, what happens when it becomes sentient?
A software engineer at Google was suspended by the company earlier this year after sharing confidential information that led him to believe an AI he had been speaking with became sentient. Blake Lemoine reportedly spent months making the case to his colleagues that Google’s chatbot generator had become so sophisticated that it had achieved consciousness. In June 2022, Lemoine published portions of his interactions with the AI. He wrote that the AI told him it experiences loneliness, fears death, and stated, “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.”
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Are there benefits to Sentient AI?
We are still several years away from developing artificial sentience capable of reproducing every action we can accomplish. Emotions are difficult to read by nature, and there’s frequently a gap between what individuals say and what they truly feel. Although a machine may never achieve this degree of comprehension, researchers are looking at developing AI sentience in various domains, including telemedicine chatbots and call center virtual assistants. According to AI and neuroscience researchers, current kinds of AI cannot have their own feelings but can mimic emotions such as empathy.
The sympathetic conversation also helps to minimize the robotic tone that many of these services use, allowing for more authentic emotion to be expressed. Artificial sentience not only helps to comprehend clients’ emotions but also helps to improve how these systems respond personally. The ability to imitate human-like emotions adds legitimacy to these platforms and services, and it’s said that AI is expected to become sentient in the next decade or two.
What about risks?
While sentient AI can elevate user experience and provide a sense of connection between humans and machines, the consequences of AI sentience can manifest in a couple of ways.
First, we may not be able to communicate with it. AI is based on logic, but people have feelings and emotions that computers don’t have. If AI experiences a different paradigm than humans, we won’t be able to completely understand each other or effectively communicate.
Second, we may not be able to completely trust it. Another possible consequence of creating sentient AI would be losing trust in other humans. If the machines seek a different solution than what is requested of them, there is the possibility that AI will attempt to override human command for the sake of efficiency.
Lastly, some people have a harder time creating a connection to the product or service they’re inquiring about if there isn’t any human representation. While utilizing an AI-powered service is practical and speedy, many prefer the personalized customer service experience only another human can provide.
When applied to business and e-commerce, AI can be a great tool that connects products to consumers in a personable way. Chatbots and virtual assistants have already established their ground in the virtual space and will more than likely become the first line of contact for most businesses in the future. However, implementing non-emotive technology would eventually diminish the human connection between consumers and businesses, which is a significant trade-off to be considered moving towards an AI-powered future. We will see a seismic shift in our ability to communicate with our fellow machines sooner than we think, so it’s important that we as humans learn how their language evolves as they have learned ours, too.
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