Artificial Intelligence: Friend Or Foe?

This blog was written by Ian Yip. 

The future of cyber safety and personal development lies in the partnership between humans and machines.

While our primary interactions with the digital world today may be through our PCs, laptops, smartphones, and smart watches, in the future they will become much more sophisticated.

Overall, the digital world will inevitably become a lot less cumbersome and confusing. A large number of the purposeful decisions we are forced to make every day will be made for us by digital assistants powered by artificial intelligence.  For some this will sound scary or unsettling, but there are actually incredibly significant benefits that these new technologies will bring in streamlining the ways we associate with the ever more pervasive, digitally-connected world … all the while keeping us safe.

Contrary to popular belief, our cyber safety is not usually compromised by some “dark force” hacking away at our online lives and personas, in an unknown or unspecified location.  It’s more often because we, as individuals, have developed a casual approach to what needs to be done to keep ourselves and our families safe when we’re online.

That’s not to suggest that anyone is “at fault”. The speed at which technology constantly develops means that it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with healthy online practices, that would keep us all digitally savvy.

In the future, much of what will be required of us to remain safe online could actually be offloaded to these increasingly present, artificially intelligent digital assistants, thus removing the boring part of having to improve security at the cost of an enjoyable and exciting user experience.

Looking at this further, we can even see that the combination of digitally-powered, situational awareness around cyber safety could be combined with behavioural analysis to make for more educated, intelligent human beings.

For example, scientifically-proven behavioural and psychological research could be applied to help shape, guide or restrict kids and developing adults’ interactions with the digital world, with the appropriate levels of intervention from parents. In this way, we would be able to create situations where computers are no longer the enemy of conscientious parents, and actually become a positive influence and assistance in helping to raise healthy, well-balanced young people.

Computers – in all their forms – are often an area of great uncertainty, confusion and, even, anxiety for parents. Take screen-time, for example. It’s a commonly debated topic. Are kids spending too much time in front of screens? What are the social, psychological, and future-professional ramifications of social media? Are there other things I should be worrying about that I’m not aware of? These are just some of the questions commonly asked by parents, and they will evolve as technology changes.

Imagine if a digital assistant powered by artificial intelligence, which is programmed by scientific research around brain and human development, could interject at crucial points during a child’s interaction with digital content to educate them. It could tell them to perform a chore before allowing more online access.  Or limit their screen time when a scientifically-proven or parent-enforced limit has been reached.  All the while keeping them safe online. Parents should be able to set guidelines and goals, and use digital assistants to see that these are met.

This week is Stay Smart Online Week, and it serves as a timely reminder that the challenge, in a rapidly developing, hyper-connected world, is in having to keep up with an increasing number of technologies. The way forward is in allowing the machines to aid ourselves and our kids in our quest to be smarter, safer, and future-proofed in a rapidly accelerating digital landscape.

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