Dealing with AI | Inquirer Opinion
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Dealing with AI

On Christmas day, a friend greeted our group on a messaging app using artificial intelligence (AI). It has begun. AI has pervaded even the simplest of tasks. It started gaining traction when we found that it can write whole essays with just a few prompts (and, of course, with students taking advantage of this to get away from doing their schoolwork). It then became a source of humor and entertainment, with AI-generated memes and face apps showing different versions of ourselves. It caused an ethical uproar when it came to art. AI has the ability to generate visuals and music that mimic other artists. We even use AI now to detect other AI’s, used by some teachers, despite poor accuracy.

Now, a lawmaker is seeking to prevent AI from replacing human workers. House Bill No. 9448, or the Protection of Labor Against Artificial Intelligence Automation Act, was filed by Quezon City Rep. Juan Carlos Atayde to “regulate the use of artificial intelligence for administrative or operational tasks in workplaces and also to protect the job security of employees.” Furthermore, it specifically discourages employers to use AI as their primary basis for hiring and firing of employees.

When new technology emerges, should we fear it or embrace it? I say the answer is both.


Fearing new technology is nothing new. When I was a kid in the ’90s, my father warned me of the dangers of using the telephone (landline!) too much, describing it as a sign of poor character. Television was also villainized, with caution now extended to digital screens like smartphones and tablets. Dangers of the internet and social media became the highlight of news programs.


I admit that I myself have done talks cautioning parents on their children’s use of these technologies, though I always start with one caveat: Technology is neither inherently good nor bad. It is how we use them that matters. Good use of technology has allowed us to stay connected when before we would have to wait months for the mail. We became more aware and were able to participate in global issues by putting social pressure and visibility on injustices like in the Arab Spring and what is now happening in Gaza.

When it comes to work, we fear that technology will render us obsolete. It is not an irrational fear. In the grand scheme of things, humans eventually adapt and learn new skills. However, the reality is that retraining and respecialization require much more time and resources than what it takes to switch to new technology. Not everyone survives the change. Look at the unfolding jeepney modernization crisis. Not all operators can literally afford to adapt and modernize. While perhaps modernization is the inevitable evolution in our transport industry, it is not without collateral damage.

Early adopters of new technology have the opposite focus. They extol its virtues and potential while ignoring adverse social implications. Once AI became accessible to the public, many companies seized the opportunity and applied AI where they could. Chatbots of all varying purposes and personalities were created. Some were relatively harmless, even helpful, while others became dangerous to the point of teaching people how to hurt others and themselves.

The problem with technology is that it evolves much faster than its ethics. We tend to regulate reactively rather than preventively. It is only when disasters arising from misuse and abuse of technology occur that we think about regulating it. It was like that with the internet. We must learn from this and get ahead of AI to minimize its risks. Our psychology department has been approached multiple times by ventures hoping to develop AI-based mental health interventions. We screen those requests depending on how seriously they have thought about possible negative consequences of their products that could lead to worsened mental states, as well as taken the time to learn the science and art of mental health. Just because something can be built doesn’t mean we should.

Technology promises to make our lives easier. This is not always the case. We are busier than ever and it takes multiple income streams to afford a basic lifestyle. Appliances have made housework easier but taking care of the home is still somehow a full-time job. Computers and software have not eradicated the need for overtime or all-nighters. We are working longer, harder, and for less pay. This is because automating one task simply means we turn our attention on to more difficult tasks. I have to patiently explain to parents that students’ workloads have actually become worse compared to their time even when “information is at their fingertips,” simply because they now have to learn a much larger body of knowledge and are required to develop skill sets more appropriate to their time.

AI is here, whether we like it or not. We must look at it from all angles, seeing what it can provide and what havoc it can inflict. Conversations on its regulation must happen now before it’s too late.



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