Skip to main content

Get to Know Artificial Intelligence

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Discuss the impacts of AI on our personal and professional lives.
  • Define ethical AI and secure AI.

The Ancient Roots of AI

The intrigue surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is hardly a recent phenomenon; its conceptual origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Long before we had the terminology or the technology, our ancestors pondered on the notion of artificial life. They even created early examples of what we today would call automata—mechanical devices designed to autonomously perform tasks.

For instance, in ancient Greece, narratives about Hephaestus, the god of invention, creating the bronze giant Talos to protect the island of Crete from invaders captivated the minds of people nearly 2,700 years ago. In ancient China, craftsmen built mechanical servants and intricate automata that could serve tea or perform complex movements. Ancient Indian epics like the Mahabharata describe self-navigating chariots and weapons, alluding to a form of automation. In various African traditions, automatons and mechanical devices appear in the form of protective figures or talismans.

These mythical constructs and ancient devices functioned in ways that resonate with today’s ideas about robotics and automation serving human needs and offering protection. They prompt us to think about the ethical and security implications of autonomous entities, while also foreshadowing contemporary discussions surrounding AI’s incredible potential and related ethical and security complexities.

AI’s Everyday Influence

Transitioning from myth to modern day, we now encounter artificial intelligence–a sophisticated system that emulates human intuition, inference, and reasoning. With the potential to revolutionize industries and day-to-day lives, AI has evolved from ancient myths and basic machines to adaptive contemporary companions, remaining powerful and pervasive.

Imagine being awakened by an alarm clock that tailors alerts based on your unique sleep patterns. As you begin your day, you unlock your smartphone with a simple scan of your face and quickly check the day’s weather forecast. Your voice assistant, familiar with your preferences, plays a recommended playlist while you prepare breakfast. The moment you step out the door, your smart home system kicks in, adjusting the lighting and temperature for optimal energy conservation during your absence.

On your drive to work your car’s advanced navigation system intelligently selects the most efficient route, bypassing areas of congestion. Around lunchtime, your favorite food delivery app suggests meals you might like, based on what you’ve ordered before. After a busy workday, you arrive home and with a few voice commands adjust the lighting and temperature in your home. Later that evening, your device orders dinner for you as you wind down to watch a movie suggested by your streaming service’s recommendation system.

This exemplifies the pervasive influence of AI, seamlessly integrating into our normal routines to enhance productivity and decision-making. But the scope is much broader than that. Now, let’s explore the expansive reach of AI in our personal and professional lives. 

AI’s Broad Applications

From local businesses to global corporations, AI is reshaping operational work across multiple industries. Let’s look at ways in which individuals might encounter these AI applications from a personal level and in a professional context.


Personal application 

Professional application 


Undergoing an MRI scan where AI-enhanced imaging helps doctors identify abnormalities more accurately.

Using AI-driven simulations to predict how different drugs can interact with biological systems, speeding up drug development.


Upgrading credit card security, AI learns your spending patterns to flag unusual transactions more accurately and faster than older, rule-based alert systems.

Utilizing AI tools to predict market trends based on historical data to inform investment decisions.


Purchasing a product that undergoes AI-driven quality control checks during production.

Employing AI-driven predictive maintenance tools to provide alerts before a machine breaks down, preventing prolonged downtimes.


Getting AI-driven purchasing recommendations based on your online shopping habits.

Using AI analytics to optimize inventory levels, ensuring popular items don’t run out of stock, and reducing wastage and excess inventory levels.


Using apps like Waze or Google Maps that provide real-time traffic updates and route suggestions optimized by AI.

Using AI to predict the best routes for delivery trucks, optimizing fuel use and time.


Using learning platforms that generate AI-driven course suggestions based on previous learning patterns and history.

Leveraging AI tools that automatically grade assignments, enabling more time to focus on teaching.


Watching a movie or listening to a song on a streaming platform that was recommended by AI-driven algorithms.

Using AI-driven software to produce authentic-looking visuals and synthetic voices and faces in movies or TV shows.


Watching games where commentators use AI-enhanced tools to analyze plays and predict game outcomes.

Using wearables with AI to monitor players' health and performance in real-time, adjusting strategies accordingly.

Law Enforcement 

Automatically scanning license plates for stolen cars.

Leveraging AI tools to process and analyze vast amounts of surveillance footage quickly, spotting potential clues.


Using security apps that incorporate AI-enhanced anomaly detection to alert users about suspicious activities.

Leverage AI models to protect against AI-based threats (for example, phishing, deepfakes), detect anomalies, automate tasks, and rapidly identify large scale incidents, shortening response times.

In the above examples, AI can seamlessly integrate into multiple facets of our personal and professional lives driving innovation and redefining traditional boundaries.

AI’s Ethical and Security Implications

While AI’s convenience and efficiency can be captivating, it’s crucial not to overlook the fundamental principles of ethics and security that should underpin the “intelligence” of this technology. Ethical principles focus on fairness, transparency, and trust, ensuring that these tools are free from bias and respectful of your privacy. Security principles focus on protection and defense—guarding against threats that could compromise your data and personal safety. These are the pillars that make AI smart, trustworthy, and reliable.

Building on these pillars of ethics and security, international efforts are unfolding to address the often "black box" or opaque nature of AI, where the algorithm’s decision-making process is unclear and difficult to interpret. Algorithmic explainability is at the forefront, seeking to make AI’s decision-making transparent and understandable. This is pivotal for numerous reasons, including accountability, identifying security incidents, ethical considerations, and legal compliance.

The initiatives below are part of a broader movement to align AI with global ethical and security standards, incorporating elements of transparency and explainability.

  • World Economic Forum AI Governance Alliance: A platform for public-private cooperation that promotes responsible AI governance, with involvement from corporations, governments, and civil society.
  • Alliance4AI: A network that aims to create a community around AI in Africa that can collaborate on guidelines and policies, including ethical considerations.
  • EU Artificial Intelligence Act: Legislation proposed by the European Union aiming to create a “single market” for trustworthy AI.
  • OECD AI: An initiative that provides guidelines focusing on transparency, fairness, and ensuring that AI systems are robust, secure, and safe.

Through these diverse, multifaceted approaches, the international community is striving to ensure that AI is both a powerful tool and a fair and trustworthy ally.

An intelligent machine holding a scale surrounded by cybersecurity symbols like firewalls, shields, and locks.

Let’s look at the various types of AI tools you may currently use, and what the ethical and security implications are when using them.

Type of AI tool 

Ethical implications 

Security implications 


Data used for training could have biases, thus impacting the content it generates.

The chatbot could inadvertently store or leak sensitive data if not properly secured.

Writing assistant

Content suggestions could favor certain topics over others, posing questions of impartiality and bias.

If user-generated content isn’t encrypted, there's a risk of data exposure.

Virtual meeting assistant

Access to personal calendars and schedules raises questions about user privacy.

Lack of robust encryption could compromise meeting data and personal schedules.

Transcription service

Transcription accuracy could be a concern, along with how the transcribed data is used for training future models.

Audio and transcribed data must be securely stored to prevent unauthorized access.

Creative writing tool

Creative direction could be influenced, thus affecting the originality of user-generated content.

Data encryption is essential to protect user-written stories or poems.

Image generation

The AI’s image generation could be influenced by its training data, raising questions about copyright and originality. The upload feature introduces consent and privacy issues.

Uploaded photos and generated images could be a target for data breaches or misuse, especially if not properly encrypted or stored.

AI companion

Emotional and psychological impact of using AI for companionship is still under debate.

Sensitive personal conversations require high-level encryption to prevent unauthorized access.

Smart thermostat

Collects data on user habits and preferences, posing privacy questions.

A compromised system could give unauthorized individuals control over in-home settings.

Photo management

Facial recognition and data categorization raise ethical questions around consent and privacy.

Storing a large volume of personal photos in the cloud could risk data exposure if not properly secured.

Music streaming

Recommender systems could favor sponsored or popular content, affecting the variety and independence of suggestions.

Personal listening habits and playlists should be encrypted to prevent misuse.

This table outlines some of the key ethical and security considerations you should keep in mind while interacting with these AI-driven tools.

It’s clear that as AI becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, the stakes also rise exponentially. While AI offers remarkable benefits in various sectors its ethical and security ramifications cannot be overlooked. Issues like data privacy, bias, and the potential for misuse in cyber warfare are real concerns that require a balanced and enlightened approach to AI deployment and regulation.

As we pivot to the next section on AI threats and defenses, the focus shifts from understanding the ethical landscape to identifying the actual risks that AI poses, both as a target and as a weapon. Recognizing these threats is the first step in constructing effective defenses that align with technological requirements and ethical norms.


Keep learning for
Sign up for an account to continue.
What’s in it for you?
  • Get personalized recommendations for your career goals
  • Practice your skills with hands-on challenges and quizzes
  • Track and share your progress with employers
  • Connect to mentorship and career opportunities