‘Raise alarm’ on ‘AI threats’, academics appeal health professionals

A group of academics wrote on Wednesday (May 10) that health professionals must warn everyone about dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). Moreover, the clamour is growing for work on the technology to be stopped. The academics have written in BMJ Global Health journal. They say that time to take such a step was running out because governments, corporations and militaries were working fast to develop AI tools.

AI has become buzzword since last year after the launch of ChatGPT, a bot capable of generating text from short prompts. The blockbuster response to ChatGPT has led to freny amid tech majors like Google and Microsoft to weave AI in their products and tools. Investors have started pouring money into AI startups.

But the health academics pointed to a range of threats, including powerful AI surveillance systems being developed in dozens of countries, killer robots and disinformation.

They highlighted issues like people with darker skin being at serious risk of harm or reduced care. This they said may be the result of datasets used to “train” AI alogrithms being biased.

They argued that “the window of opportunity to avoid serious and potentially existential harms is closing”.

The authors, led by Frederik Federspiel of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and David McCoy of the United Nations University in Kuala Lumpur, wrote that global cooperation would be needed.

“Healthcare professionals have a key role in raising awareness and sounding the alarm on the risks and threats posed by AI,” they wrote in an analysis piece.

“If AI is to ever fulfil its promise to benefit humanity and society, we must protect democracy, strengthen our public-interest institutions, and dilute power so that there are effective checks and balances.”

Even people from the tech world are making there voices heard now.

Earlier this month, computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton, often dubbed “the godfather of AI”, quit his job at Google to warn of the “profound risks to society and humanity” of the technology.

In March, billionaire Elon Musk — whose Tesla carmaker deploys AI systems — and hundreds of experts called for a pause in AI development to allow time to make sure the technology was safe and properly regulated.

(With inputs from agencies)

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