Friend, not Foe: Dr. Ebrahim Khosravi discusses the facts, fiction of AI
(October 18, 2023) - When artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is discussed among the general public, it’s rarely surprising to hear about or receive a mixed response on the topic.
While some may be enthusiastic about the prospect of having further digital assistance to their line of work or their personal lives, there are seemingly just as many who want the exact opposite.
Dr. Ebrahim Khosravi, the dean of Clayton State University’s College of Information and Mathematical Sciences (CIMS), belongs to the former and discussed what AI and its true function really are in a recent interview.
“A lot of things about AI are really not defined correctly in the media,” Khosravi said.
The dean clarified that artificial intelligence simplifies personal challenges by making one’s relevant information more convenient and available for use.
Khosravi said that many tools, such as the combination of a cell phone’s app calculator, calendar, contact list, are all considered to be AI.
He further described artificial intelligence simply as pattern recognition of data with some interaction or train data that facilitates things many already have, making it “easier to use.”
For example, Khosravi discussed how, ten years ago, if someone was to search on Delta’s website for airline tickets, a separate listed group of competing airlines also offering flights to the same final destination would be featured on the side of one’s browser.
The technology was called consumer data analytics.
However, with today’s network advances, hardware and software can access more information at greater speeds and with a more personal touch than before.
“AI simply incorporates all relevant data in a user’s general search because it knows from someone’s web history and activity what the end goal of the user is,” Khosravi said. “If you’re in the market to buy a car, [AI] knows what kind of things you’re looking for. If you’re looking for luxury cars, it’s not going to bring down information from the database that is not related to luxury. At the end of the day, AI made your life easier.”
When specifically asked how AI has helped improve his field of computer science, Khosravi said that AI also “mimics machine learning” as well as “deep learning” to further build databases, generate code, and train data.
“Computer science in the ‘90s, you had to work with Fortran code,” Khosravi said. “Then we went to structural programming, then object-oriented. Now, you can generate code automatically.”
But while Khosravi is ecstatic about the future evolution of AI, he also understands the concerns that many may have about artificial intelligence replacing them professionally, leaving them potentially jobless.
Khosravi reassured that while “AI will change certain things,” including various career fields, one’s work will never disappear overnight.
It will simply evolve, instead.
“The day before the shovel was invented, how did people dig the ground? With their hands,” Khosravi said. “When the shovel came, did people lose their jobs? No. When the tractor came, did people with shovels lose their jobs? No. The type of job changes. The type of engagement in businesses changes. You have to be able to adopt to the changes.”
Khosravi is set in his research that AI’s true purpose is to aid in and simplify data use for people worldwide.
But he is more than aware of a more specific cause of unease that many have toward the evolving tool – one that’s been adapted to the big-screen in the Terminator series and more recently in the hit movie, The Creator.
Khosravi clarified that the fears of AI becoming sentient and causing catastrophic damage to humanity is something that artificial intelligence can’t become or do at all.
Instead, those fears would be more appropriately related to AGI – artificial general intelligence.
There, he said, is where his optimism fades.
“AI is not something you need to be afraid of – AGI, you do,” Khosravi said. “AGI mimics humans. It has a conscious. AI doesn’t have a conscious.”
Khosravi said that AI knows your contacts on your phone, your personalized calendar, what you put down on your grocery list, your purchasing behaviors, etc.
But the lack of a conscious is what separates AI from AGI ... and is also what makes the latter actually dangerous.
“If I put all of those things together, don’t you think I can do a lot for you now?” he asked, mimicking AGI. “I can order your groceries, go ahead and schedule your calendar for you, call people. I’m going to find your habits – the things you do. But do I have your conscious? I don’t. If you show me three or four times – that’s called deep learning. You always pick, say, yellow over red – I can remember that. But why you’re doing that ... I don’t know. That is AGI.”
However, for those suddenly convinced that they need to immediately throw their cell phone and laptop into the closest, deepest body of water, the good doctor said that there is no such imminent threat present to warrant any level of fear.
“AGI ... we are far, far, far away from,” Khosravi said. “At the end, I think effective use of AI can help us do most tasks much faster and, as a result, increase our production or output. In addition, business can have a better forecast on products and points of sale. This is also true for smart manufacturing or the next generation of technology.”