The number one comment I get when I tell people I work in artificial intelligence is a vague, “cool” followed by, “so when do you think robots are going to take over?” I can usually just laugh and change the subject. But as Halloween approaches, I think it’s worthwhile to address some of the creepier parts of AI. So grab your blanket, your flashlight, and a giant bucket of fun-size candy bars as we tell some popular AI ghost stories!

Sp🕷🕸ky Thought #1: AI is Computers Coming to Life

This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of robots taking over. I know people don’t mean it literally, but please know that we’re countless years away from computers having anything close to human consciousness. However, this does depend on who you ask.

If your idea of humanness is the thought processes and decisions we make to solve a problem, then you might want to start to worry about the robot takeover. There are definitely computers out there doing very similar things to what we do on a manual basis. 

If consciousness to you includes feelings, emotions, complete verbal production and processing, and an innate sense of existence, then you can sleep peacefully…for now. There aren’t any (known) computers out there that are even close to this level of humanity.

Sp🕷🕸ky Thought #2: AI is going to take away all the jobs

There’s some truth to this fear. One expert says that up to 40% of people could expect disruption or dislocation from their jobs because of automation. 

However, this isn’t as scary as it seems. Historical advances in technology have led to the creation of more jobs than they’ve removed. A reduction in tedious tasks could place greater monetary value on activities considered outside the realm of ‘work’ today.

AI is shifting the economy and the job market- that’s undeniable. But a shift in where human energy is placed could create huge opportunities to reimagine the way we work. Change doesn’t have to be frightening.

Sp🕷🕸ky Thought #3: What if our AI makes a mistake?

Allowing AI to aid in decision making can seem very daunting given the problems outlined above. However, when we make thoughtful decisions about which processes to entrust machines to handle, they are able to perform far better than any human. 

A robot may never be able to have important conversations with a prospect, and that’s just fine- sometimes the intricacy of human connection is far more reassuring. But when it comes to searching through hundreds of pages of documents to find the answer to your questions? There’s an algorithm for that. 

Sp🕷🕸ky Thought #4: AI is Unnatural and Creepy

This applies to some AIs more than others. Have you ever seen an almost realistic figure or situation, but were also deeply unsettled by it? I’m looking at you, Cats reboot. If so, you have experienced a fall into the uncanny valley– a “cold, eerie feeling” when interacting with an imperfect rendering of humans.

Our brains are fine with robots who appear to be robots (roombas) or robots that act completely human in certain ways (Alexa, what’s the weather like in the uncanny valley?). But anything that is just barely not human can make us feel, well, spooked. Designers and developers of AI systems are constantly trying to avoid this phenomenon, but if there’s anything we can learn from Judy Dench in feline form, it’s that this line is still being fully understood. 

Sp🕷🕸ky Thought #5: It’s people!! AI is people!!!

Well, at the end of the day, AI is people.The less spooky reality is that this technology reflects those who write the algorithms, produce and train the data sets, and build the applications. 

While incredibly powerful, AI is simply a tool used to serve a variety of purposes. As its users and developers, we are the ones responsible for holding ourselves and others accountable so we can avoid the AI scaries that go bump in the night.

AI Ethics is a rapidly growing field, and there is positive potential for these technologies if we do it right. Please, though, let’s leave Cats on stage where it belongs- Halloween is scary enough already. 

To further lessen your fears, learn more about how Coveo positively applies AI.

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