Anyone who has had their face, voice, comments or ‘supposed thoughts’ hijacked and dumped into the wilds of social media will probably say AI is the villain. It is making up lies, spreading untruths and manipulating society. 

Anyone involved in using AI for good, and there are an abundance of ways AI is advancing society, economies and environmental causes, will say AI is the victim. How could AI used in cancer screening and to improve healthcare screening generally, or used to analyse billions of data points to enable perfect crop, seed and fertilizer timing to combat world hunger be classified as villainous? 

AI used for fraud detection by financial services or quality control in manufacturing makes everyone safer. Uses in education include tailoring educational content to each student’s requirements and protecting academic integrity by detecting plagiarism. Both are worthy and positive applications of AI for good. AI is most definitely not a villain in these cases. 

Villain or victim is a catchy headline, but AI is neither. AI is a tool. A tool used by humans as they see fit.

Anything villainous about how AI is used, is down to humans. The deepfakes that are appearing on platforms around the world are virtually indistinguishable from reality. They are so sophisticated that they fool reputed media organisations, who go on to further spread this maleficence by repeating or replaying these deepfakes. 

We now have to question just whose face, voice, line or thoughts are they anyway? Not because the AI is some dark force, but because some humans are using the tool that is AI as a dark force. AI could be seen as a victim – hijacked by bad actors. What is happening, however, is that AI is being blamed, you could say victimised, because of the actions of humans. 

The question is do we let the baddies win out of the goodies?

AI has so many benefits for society if it is harnessed correctly, and humans remain firmly in control. Humans must and should be the masters of AI, not the other way around. 

Technology is advancing at unprecedented rates, and it doesn’t look to be slowing anytime soon. It is widely acknowledged that the legal system lags far behind the progress of technology and so laws struggle to keep pace and keep consumers safe. There are even times when it appears that technology companies are focused on finding loopholes to protect revenue streams rather than supporting laws that protect consumers. 

The ethical principles that govern business and that define civil society should and must extend to the virtual world and importantly the use of AI. 

When we ask whose face, voice, line or thought is it anyway – it must surely and without any doubt be the person it claims to be. If it isn’t then the human being impersonated is the victim, and the human who created the deepfake is the villain. AI is the tool. Don’t blame it. 

Humans are the architects, designers, creators and users of AI. They and only they are the villains or victims.

An abridged version of this blog was published in Wharflife.