Why the World Needs a Counselor

Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

Why the World Needs a Counselor

Why indeed? Who are the parties involved? What are they disagreeing on? What if matters spin out of control and lead to greater disparities?

That is exactly why we need a counselor.

We, as citizens of this world –both on a national and international scale- are intermittently connected; our lives intertwined via an unbreakable cord: what happens in one end of the globe affects the opposite end.

Fortunately, we are moving towards a period of unprecedented advancements on all fronts: scientific, technological, societal, cultural and many more due to the general international environment being relatively peaceful amongst major players –with a few sporadic events taking place here and there. But with these leapfrog advancements and discoveries come new challenges.

The challenges facing humanity at this day and age are not human challenges; meaning they are not cultural clashes or societal conflicts. We have been able to achieve landmark progress with the acknowledgment and acceptance of different and multicultural norms, instilling global religious tolerance and establishing social order.

However, the three major challenges imposed on humanity are manifestations of external factors that could potentially be more threatening than we anticipated.

This is why we need a counselor.

The risks brought forth via climate change, Artificial Intelligence and solar flares are threats that can no longer be neglected but must be handled and overcome. The urgency is paramount; our global rhetoric and actions must reflect this understanding.

Keeping in mind the fact that over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water, one can begin to comprehend the gravity of altered sea levels. Climate change, for one, is the predominant contributor to rising sea levels; approximately half the world’s population lives within 200 kilometers of the coast (and a staggering 40% of the population lives within only 100 kilometers). With estimates being as high as 38-inch increase by 2100, the international community must take heed in placing strategies to hinder the rate of climate change or manage potential hazards. Countries like the United States, Maldives and Bangladesh, with their great coasts, stand to lose the most if coastal resilience strategies are not put in place. Although many countries have already initiated action plans to manage and curb further degradation, no consensus amongst the international community exists.

The issue of solar flares is another environmental challenge we must face. Solar flares are brief bursts of intense electromagnetic energy from the sun that could temporarily disrupt the upper atmosphere and alter signal transmission. The significance of this comes from its ability to disrupt satellite signals ranging from cellphone usage to GPS controls and airline pilots. What exacerbate the situation further are coronal mass ejections (known as CMEs), which induce geomagnetic storms by propelling explosions of particles and electromagnetic fluctuations into our atmosphere. During these storms, communication satellites become either highly charged or get damaged by high-energy particles that are emitted from these storms. Unfortunately, there is no way to control this phenomenon but the only way forward is to take proper precautions and adopt measures to protect ourselves from their impact.

The final major threat, Artificial Intelligence (AI), is the buzzword of the 21st century.

From IBM’s Watson to digital personal assistants such as SIRI and self-driving cars on the horizon, AI developments can no longer be seen as a trend but a revolution that can match the Agricultural and Industrial Revolution in importance and impact. The goal of AI is to ultimately benefit mankind; by propelling machine learning — which programmes machines to identify patterns and process data to come to an educated conclusion — scientists and engineers are hoping to create AI capable of solving some of the most difficult questions that face us humans, such as diagnosing cancer and managing global shipping networks. Despite the benefits AI offers, numerous theories have emerged regarding the inevitable threat AI is posing and few people can disagree to the fact that AI is changing the way we humans experience and live. However, the challenges brought forth by AI are not in the existential form that some people are speculating –especially the ones inspired by the Terminator movies. The real threat AI poses is in its ability to disrupt norms and everyday life known to us today.

One of the most obvious threats of AI is its prospective wide-scale disruption of jobs, i.e. mass unemployment. From lower-paying jobs such as robot-driven taxis to higher-paying jobs such as automated medical consultants, automation is believed to jeopardise 9–46% of jobs in the two upcoming decades. The reasons behind this are numerous; but mainly revolve around increased efficiency, productivity -hence income- as well as decreased errors and wages.

In order to face this challenge, each and every member of the international community must adopt an adamant strategy to ensure stability of their economy and society. Education and training are in the forefront of these strategies; substantial investments must be made in order to educate and train people in future jobs that are not likely to be automated. Also, to ensure the peaceful transition of jobs between human to automated labour, policymakers must put in place alternative plans for people with jobs that are likely to be automated in the short-run.

We can no longer pull a blind eye towards these issues; the world needs a counselor to instigate reasonable discussion, international consensus and unanimity in policymaking amongst each state before matters take a wrong turn. All the challenges mentioned above are issues that affect each and every individual on this planet. Now is the time to come together, voice our concerns and focus on continued progress.

We are, after all, one big family.