March 2023

Artificial intelligence blessing or concern? (part 1)


Artificial Intelligence or Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly used in our society. Not only to write texts, but also to recognize faces, detect (potential) fraudsters and locate tumors. Is this a development that we should embrace or is it wiser to be careful and step on the brakes?

What exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

It is difficult to define what AI exactly is. The definition also keeps shifting; something that was first considered very intelligent, such as winning a chess match against the world champion, suddenly turns out to be no longer so once the goal has been achieved. But a fairly widely accepted test for artificial intelligence is the Turing test, formulated by the English mathematician Alan Turing. It boils down to the fact that if a computer can make someone believe that they are human, then the computer must be intelligent.
There are two types of AI: "strong AI" and "weak AI". Strong AI is concerned with research into creating a computer or software that can actually reason and solve problems, and that might have self-awareness; either a human-like consciousness or a non-human, computer intelligence. This concept of a "self-thinking" computer is still a long way off.
Weak AI deals with sub-areas with seemingly intelligent behavior, but without the need for 'real intelligence'. For example, you can think of search algorithms and expert systems that are trained with large amounts of data. Most progress has been made in these areas.

What is AI used for?

Weak AI is mainly used for pattern recognition and image processing, statistics and linguistics. Examples of this are:

  • Arranging simple geometric shapes, such as "put the red pyramid on the big blue cube" or performing learned routine actions (robots).
  • Simulating the behavior of (much) simpler animals than humans, for example an ant or a bottom nematode, but also that of a school of fish or a flock of birds (swarm intelligence).
  • Playing mind sports, such as chess, checkers or Go.
  • Speech recognition, which is used, among other things, for the hearing impaired and for use in translation apps.
  • Handwriting recognition, which is used for the rapid digitization of archive documents.
  • Conducting conversations with customers, where the only real input comes from the human interlocutor, without them realizing it. It turns out that a large number of people are deceived by this, provided they are not suspicious beforehand. Many people even ask to be left alone for a while to talk to the computer in private, "because their interlocutor understands them so well". In that sense, the chatbots already meet the aforementioned Turing test… These types of chatbots are currently being developed by Microsoft and Google, but more and more companies are already using such chatbots for Customer Service, examples of this are, see Google Essentials of 22 January 'How can you use chatbots to increase consumer engagement with your company?'.
  • Creativity. This is already a bit slippery terrain. Is what AI makes art, or is it just "rumination" of existing art, i.e. Is AI "creative" in the sense of creating original expressions?
  • Object recognition, with the self-driving car as an example. In view of the accidents that regularly make the news, in practice it appears to be very advisable for the driver to remain behind the wheel and to pay attention.
  • Fraud detection. One of the most controversial forms of AI is the detection of potential fraudsters, as done by the Tax and Customs Administration. After this we will go into this further. An extreme example are the systems used in China, for example, to recognize pedestrians who run a red light and to penalize them with points deduction or a travel ban.


In short, AI is being used more and more and in more areas than we might think at first glance. How do we as people deal with this, if there are already people who think that there is another person on the other side of the line? Is this an inevitable development, and is it desirable or undesirable?
Part of the problem is that much of AI development is happening behind our backs. As a human you can get the feeling that AI is rolling down a mountain like a snowball, and that you have no control over its development or the direction in which it is developing. We will discuss in a subsequent blog that this not only has advantages, but also (major) disadvantages.

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