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Social and Ethical Impact of Artificial Intelligence

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Introduction III

History III

What is Artificial Intelligence? III

Social and Ethical Issues Associated with Artificial Intelligence IV

Part I Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence IV

Part II Advantages IV

Part III Disadvantages IV

Ethical Impact of Artificial Intelligence V

Conclusion VI

Bibliography VII


As our world expands through the growing abilities and applications of computers in our everyday lives, it seems that the role of the computer has been reversed. Before we knew that the computer only understood what we programmed it to understand; however, now the majority of our society is learning more from computers than they are able to input into it. Dumm (1986 p.69)


"The human aspiration to create intelligent machines has appeared in myth and literature for thousands of years, from stories of Pygmalion to the tales of the Jewish Golem." Anat Treister-Goren, Ph.D. (

The concepts of the development of artificial intelligence can be traced as far back as ancient Greece. Even something as small as the abacus has in someway led to the idea of artificial intelligence. However, one of the biggest breakthroughs in the area of AI is when computers were invented.

Many encyclopaedias and other reference works state that the first large-scale automatic digital computer was the Harvard Mark 1, which was developed by Howard H. Aiken (and team) in America between 1939 and 1944. However, in the aftermath of World War II it was discovered that a program controlled computer called the Z3 had been completed in Germany in 1941, which means that the Z3 pre-dated the Harvard Mark I. Prof. Hurst Zuse (

Following shortly after Z3, Britain's Colossus in 1943 and two years later America came up with another system ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer)

Years later in 1956 John Von Neumann would develop one of the most influential computers called the JOHNNIAC (John V. Neumann Integrator and Computer). The JOHNNIAC was an early effort at AI programming; its legacy was JOSS programming language (JOHNNIAC Open Shop System) an easy-to-use language which catered to novices.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

"Artificial intelligence (AI) is defined as intelligence exhibited by an artificial entity. Such a system is generally assumed to be a computer." (Oxford Dictionary 2006)

Although AI has a strong science fiction connotation, it forms a vital branch of computer science, dealing with intelligent behavior, learning and adaptation in machines. Research in AI is concerned with producing machines to automate tasks requiring intelligent behavior. Examples include control, planning and scheduling, the ability to answer diagnostic and consumer questions, handwriting, speech, and facial recognition.

Social and Ethical Issues Associated with Artificial Intelligence

"Is artificial intelligence in human society a utopian dream or a Faustian nightmare? Will our descendants honor us for making machines do things that human minds do or berate us for irresponsibility and hubris?" Boden (1990 p.199)

Part I Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence

Its is an important factor that the public and politicians of today know as much as possible about the effects for good or ill of Artificial Intelligence in our society.

Clearly Artificial Intelligence has potential advantages, and would be very useful in aiding many professions however there are many that would argue it would be used not for the good of all men. Like many recent Hollywood films exploring AI its application has ended in disaster films like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and 2001: A Space Odyssey to name but some.

Part II Advantages of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence involves the talent of a computer system to perform work that was usually kept for human intellect. For medical decision making, the "information feedback about diagnosis and treatment would be based into computer programs," Nathanson (1984 p.138)

Artificial Intelligence is also used in industry. One example of industrial usage of Artificial Intelligence is a welding robot. These welding robots can perform lengthy and complex tasks in a shorter amount of tine than manual labour. These robots can also be used for particular parts that are produced in large quantity. Instead of having many men do a job that takes up a lot of their time, these robots can do the job much quicker and then the men can work on smaller projects. Using these robots can also reduce the overall costs for businesses, by reducing the hours of manual labour spent on the big jobs.

Artificial Intelligence is increasingly being used more in the gaming industry as an example; Microsoft's game Age of Empires 3 the AI within the game learns your style of play as you replay the same scenario over and over again, and will pick up your general tendencies as you play the game.

Part III Disadvantages of Artificial Intelligence

Although the fear of the machines is here, their capabilities are infinite. Whatever humans teach AI, they will suggest in the future if a positive outcome arrives from it. AI is like babies and children; they need to be taught to be kind, well mannered, and intelligent. If they are to make important decisions, they will be wise and a great benefit. Mankind also needs to make sure AI programmers and researchers are keeping things on the level.

The main problem with AI is the fear that if given too much power the AI may turn against their creators.



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