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What is the impact of our intelligent environment on quality of life?

Dernière mise à jour : 21 août 2020

Artificial intelligence has transformed our living environment reshaping our way of life. What are the effects of this new reality in our daily lives?

Intelligent technology is a trending topic. It is constantly evolving in our environment, changing both our lifestyles and our social interactions. Artificial intelligence is present almost everywhere around us and given the magnitude of the phenomenon, we can wonder what its effect is on aspects of our life, more particularly on the quality of life.


The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes us easily think of science fiction, yet today it has become a very palpable reality of our daily lives. Artificial intelligence is the ability of computers or robots to reproduce tasks usually performed by intelligent beings (such as reasoning, understanding, learning, making decisions). So these are machines that simulate intelligence.

There are several concepts of artificial intelligence that almost all bear the acronym AI and whose difference between each one comes from the relationship between man and machine.

Autonomous Intelligence (AI) is a form of artificial intelligence where technology takes action and makes decisions. It is autonomous and does not need the human being to function. We often think of the cliché of robots presented to us by science fiction films. Although these kinds of robots are more and more likely to be part of the equation in the future, they exist for now in our environment in a rather subtle way. For example, chatbots on e-commerce websites.

There is also Augmented or Amplified Intelligence (AI), which is an artificial intelligence concept in which technology is used either to enable us to do more than we would be able to do without it (like making complex calculations), or to help us in decision making (for example the analysis of a large number of data). This artificial intelligence amplifies our capabilities, our talents, our expertise, our creativity. Seen from this angle, artificial intelligence is a valuable asset that is part of a collaborative machine/human interaction.

The machine/human relationship can also be done in a context where technology assists individuals. This is Assisted Intelligence (AI), which is an artificial intelligence through which technology repeats actions that humans already do or improve what people or companies do. They are automated systems that support humans by doing things faster and better.

Finally, it is by looking at the Ambient Intelligence (AmI) that we find an answer to the question of the impact of artificial intelligence on the quality of life. Ambient Intelligence refers to the fact that technology is embedded in our natural environment to the point of becoming invisible. They are small, omnipresent, sensitive and reactive devices to man, who is placed at the controls and at the centre of an increased environment focused on the user experience. Ambient technology assists and guides individuals, making their everyday lives easier.

Artificial intelligence therefore comes in reinforcement to man and there is great potential to use these intelligent systems to increase and advance our capabilities.However, does this omnipresence of technology have only beneficial effects in our lives?


Evolution of lifestyles

Ambient intelligence is present, for example, through our electronic devices, which are now very intuitive, user-friendly and facilitate an increasingly natural interaction with digital platforms. Artificial intelligence is thus diffused in the surrounding environment (think among other things of smart phones, homes or cars) and it discreetly mingles with the background of everyday activities. Ambient intelligence technologies are also used, for example, with people with disabilities or the elderly in the context of assisted living. Ambient intelligence has an undeniable impact on the lifestyle of individuals. It enhances the well-being of individuals by facilitating their lives through natural interaction with augmented environments. In this context, it can help improve the quality of life.

Dependence on technology

We are now heavily dependent on the technology and functionality of artificial intelligence. In his absence, it is less easy to operate, since the machines assist and amplify us. We feel diminished, as we are unable or hardly able to accomplish a good number of actions that we are used to perform with the help of technology. As soon as our devices are down, a tension arises, because we feel deprived of our means.

Loss of control of intelligent systems

With ambient intelligence, man has control of his increased environment. However, what would happen if he lost this control? Are we going to fall into an apocalyptic scenario like the movie The Matrix where machines are in control of themselves and cultivate men because they have become their source of energy? Or in the scenario of robots making decisions instead of human beings for their so-called «security» as in the film Irobot (inspired by the science fiction novels of Isaac Asimov), where humans find themselves prisoners of robots, as victims of a vicious circle caused by the three laws of robotics?

In a benevolent approach to humanity:

a delicate balance is needed: the technology should enhance the quality of life but not be seeking domination. It should be reliable and controllable but nevertheless adaptive to human habits and changing contexts.

Perspectives of ambient intelligence in the home environment, Michael Friedewald, Olivier Da Costa, Yves Punie, Petteri Alahuhta, Sirkka Heinonen, 2004.

Impoverishment of human relations

Ambient intelligence is designed around the interaction between human and machine. It creates an immersive environment that fosters a strong connection between man and technology. This relationship is so pervasive that it interferes with human interactions. This is easily seen with mobile phones. We hang on our smartphone in public places, public transport, when we walk or in situations of social interaction. Of course, technology is useful for remote communications, but the problem lies in misuse where interactions through the device are not justified. We are so accustomed to this natural relationship with digital interfaces that devices interfere in interpersonal relationships and reduce human relations.

Increased risk of invasion of privacy

Ambient intelligence raises concerns about personal information. Smart technologies are designed to collect and analyze information about individuals' behaviour in order to adapt to their needs, and for this reason they are intrusive. They gradually become omniscient to the point where we risk being more and more observed and losing our freedom. The character Big brother of the 1984 book by Georges Orwell seems to incarnate nowadays through ambient intelligence. The information collected by the technology is uncovered and can be used by companies to serve their business purposes or even by governments. The Internet is a good example.

As AmI technology continues to move forward, we must be vigilant regarding the need to preserve individual freedoms, privacy and ethical values.

The Impact of Ambient Intelligence Technologies on Individuals, Society and Warfare, Yvonne R. Masakowski, Jason S. Smythe, & Thomas E. Creely, 2016.

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(Ma qualité de vie means My quality of life in French.)

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