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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ritchie

Why using AI is like a 15-year-old using a jet ski


A teenage boy riding a jetski personal watercraft with code in the background


Did you know that, in New Zealand, anyone aged 15 and older can operate any watercraft capable of exceeding 10 knots (around 18 km/hr)? Did you also know that a jet ski (one of those watercraft) can travel at speeds of up to 100km/hr (60 mph), and you are not legally required to wear a helmet? When you think of this speed machine in the hands of someone whose brain cells are still developing, everyone else on the water should be more than a little concerned.


In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a powerful tool with the potential to revolutionise various aspects of our lives. However, despite its incredible capabilities, the unbridled use of AI in the hands of inexperienced operators can be likened to letting a 15-year-old ride a jet ski.


Inexperience and lack of maturity

At 15, most people lack the experience and maturity to handle complex machinery such as a jet ski. Similarly, despite its advanced algorithms and capabilities, AI lacks human-like intuition and reasoning. AI systems are only as good as the data they are trained on, and an inexperienced AI operator can cause AI to make unpredictable and unintended mistakes. Without proper training, both a 15-year-old on a jet ski and a fledgling AI operator can cause significant harm due to their inexperience.


Potential for uncontrolled actions

Just like a teenager on a jet ski can become overwhelmed with the exhilaration of speed and power, AI systems can sometimes exhibit uncontrolled behaviour. AI models trained on large datasets can make decisions based on patterns and correlations without fully understanding the context or consequences. This lack of comprehension can lead to unintended actions, errors, or biases. It is essential to have strict safeguards and monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure that AI systems operate within desired boundaries.


Lack of ethical awareness

A 15-year-old may not yet fully grasp the ethical considerations and potential consequences of their actions while riding a jet ski. Similarly, AI systems are devoid of inherent ethical awareness. They operate solely on the instructions provided during training and may not consider the ethical implications of their decisions. Responsible human oversight and guidance are crucial to ensure that AI aligns with ethical principles and values.


Safety Concerns

Riding a jet ski without proper knowledge and safety precautions can be hazardous. Similarly, AI systems need careful regulation to prevent any harm they might cause. Without adequate testing, validation, and risk assessment, AI systems may inadvertently perpetuate biases, compromise privacy, or make critical errors. Balancing innovation (and excitement) with safety measures is vital to protect our society.


Education and responsible use

Just as a 15-year-old needs to learn how to ride a jet ski responsibly and safely, AI developers and users must undergo proper education and training. Responsible development practices, including rigorous testing, addressing bias, and transparency, can help mitigate risks associated with AI. To adapt to changing circumstances and address emerging challenges, continuous monitoring and evaluation of AI systems are necessary.


AI holds immense potential for transformative advancements. However, the world of AI is currently (for the most part) unregulated and uncontrolled. Governments, institutions, industries and businesses are scrambling to put parameters and safeguards in place whilst everyday users try to navigate this brave new world.


Whether you’re talking about a 15-year-old on a jet ski or an AI user, responsible development and use, proper oversight, and safety considerations are remarkably the same. By treating AI as a powerful machine that requires guidance and supervision, we can maximise its benefits (and fun) and minimise the associated risks for a better future.


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