Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Addressing the controversy and ethics in A.I. technology.
As you scroll aimlessly scroll through your Instagram feed, you can’t help but notice ads for products that seem extremely targeted to your interests - so targeted that it’s almost scary. You may be wondering how your phone seemingly “reads your mind.” Well, this phenomenon can be attributed to the algorithms of artificial intelligence systems that businesses are increasingly implementing into their PR and advertising strategies.
So What is AI?
As Market Business News describes, Artificial Intelligence (or “AI”) refers to “software technologies that make a robot or computer act and think like a human.” This explains why it seems like the ads that we see on our social media accounts are so in tune with our personal lives. AI is used by PR firms and agencies in a variety of ways including editing of grammar, monitoring of social media, transcribing sources into text, predicting future trends and the list goes on. Businesses have decided to increase the use of this technology due to the benefit of its efficiency. The European Commission increased its spending back in 2018 to around €20 billion in investments in AI research. The Commission’s decision back in 2018 seems to have been well-informed based on new data from 2020 by Entrepreneur stating that close to 40% of businesses now use AI! However, although the use of this technology is rising, many members within the field of Communications and Marketing worry about AI taking over jobs that once needed to be completed by humans.
Addressing The Controversy
In a 2020 study by Pew, researchers found that the public tends to have mixed feelings about the increasing implementation of AI into business models. A median of 53% of the population studied believed that AI was beneficial to society whereas a median of 33% say that AI has mostly negative implications. Most of AI’s skeptics tended to be from older generations. In contrast, younger generations tend to believe that AI is useful and has positive impacts. Professionals in the Communications and Marketing fields have assured the public about the unlikelihood of jobs being replaced by artificial intelligence, particularly in regards to Public Relations work. Public relations thrive off of human relationships between members of the general public and businesses that they associate themselves with. PR must focus on how to effectively and ethically portray a company to the public and sometimes deal with crisis management if things go wrong. This requires a unique type of skill: human interaction. While AI technology can perform certain computerized tasks, relationships between humans cannot be effectively computerized. For this reason, according to an Oxford study, only 18% of PR employees are expected to be replaced by artificial intelligence. Nonetheless, many negative stigmas around AI remain.
Further Issues of Ethics
With the trend of increased use of AI within businesses comes questions of ethics about the new technology. In a study done by Cornell University, it was found that the increased use of artificial intelligence will likely magnify regional differences and may create issues of social inequality. Cornell argues that AI is greatly influenced by location, making algorithms significantly different from place to place. In effect, information relayed by AI systems to certain individuals may not be relayed to other individuals at all depending on their location. This creates discussion about potential controversies of equality and how the standard of living affects individuals’ interactions with artificial intelligence.
Importance of Public Awareness of AI
The general public needs to be aware of the increased use of AI because it affects individuals personally. Whether you are a business owner or individual browsing through your social media accounts, you will continue to interact with forms of artificial intelligence in the years to come. It is, therefore, essential that the public is well informed about what artificial intelligence is and the potential effects that this new technology may have on society in the future.
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