AI: Know Your Facts
12 February 2024


AI: Know Your Facts

Killer robots? Job-stealing machines? The 5 biggest myths about artificial intelligence.

AI is all around you. It’s in your Spotify playlist, suggesting new tunes based on your Doja Cat obsession. It’s in your phone, autocorrecting and finishing your sandwiches – sorry, sentences. It finishes your sentences. And it’s in your head, stressing you out about its evil intentions. How worried should you be about AI? Let’s unpack five myths about the technology and set the record straight. 

MYTH: AI Is Not A Big Deal 

It really is though. Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently wrote  “The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get healthcare, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it.” 

MYTH: AI Will Take Your Job 

While some very arbitrary tasks can – and should – be done by machines, you’re more likely to use AI at work than be replaced by it. Here’s Bill Gates again: “I don’t think AI’s impact will be as dramatic as the Industrial Revolution, but it certainly will be as big as the introduction of the PC. Word processing applications didn’t do away with office work, but they changed it forever. Employers and employees had to adapt, and they did.” 

MYTH: AI Is Rational And Unbiased 

You mean like Data, the android in Star Trek: The Next Generation? That’s a TV show. The truth is that much of AI is developed through machine learning (ML), which lives and dies by the principle of “garbage in, garbage out”. If an AI system is trained on biased (and racist) inputs, it will produce biased results – as Amazon found in 2014 when its AI hiring programme filtered out candidates who weren’t white males.  

Gartner summed it up well “Every AI technology is based on data, rules and other kinds of input from human experts. Because all humans are intrinsically biased in one way or another, so is the AI.” 

MYTH: AI Will Destroy Humanity In A Psychotic Rampage 

Steady now. In June 2023, when tech guru Marc Andreessen told X (formerly Twitter): “Ask Me Anything about AI”, X CEO Elon Musk replied: “How many years do we have before AI kills us all?” He wasn’t joking. But while it’s possible that machines could become sentient and try to wipe out humanity (like in Avengers: Age of Ultron or the Terminator films), AI is more likely to be used to harmful effects by humans with harmful intentions. Which brings us to … 

MYTH: AI Will Spread Fake News And Misinformation 

There have been email scams for as long as email has existed. Digital fraud is nothing new. But here’s the irony: as much as AI is making cybercriminals better at the bad things they do, it’s also making the good guys better at catching them. Intel, for example, recently developed a highly sophisticated deepfake detector to do just that.  

And remember, AI can be a tool for good, too. Vodacom is using it to protect South Africa’s whales, while the Vodafone Foundation used it in the fight against Covid-19.  

If you’re still feeling a bit paranoid, think of AI as a complex computer program that you can control, just as you would your web browser or word processing application. Discover what’s next for generative AI, and also see how Samsung has incorporated AI into its latest Galaxy S24 series of devices. Plus, check out our Tech Talk with Vodacom podcast episode about the future of autonomous AI.