Is AI Putting Our Values as a Society at Risk?


Beyond Hype


By Ricardo Viana Vargas, PhD

Lisbon, Portugal

Emerging technological tools like ChatGPT, Co-Pilot, and Bard AI have taken the world by storm. But this is not new. Machines started to challenge humans decades ago. Do you remember IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997, when it defeated the world’s best chess player, the Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov?

If AI can compete with the most brilliant human minds, then who knows the limits of its potential?

Brave New World

How will AI impact the way we learn? Google developed an engine where it was faster to search for information than going to the library. During my master’s studies in 2001, I was instructed by my supervisor not to rely on search engines for my research sources. Instead, I had to traverse the seemingly endless corridors of the university library to locate reference materials. This experience is one that I will never forget.

That sounds surreal today. ?

I do not doubt that Artificial Intelligence will help humans generate more profound information faster than we can imagine. The advancements are undeniable! However, we cannot disregard the side effects.

How will some of our values as a society be shaped? How will ethics, humanism, and collectiveness be addressed in the near future?

One of the most disruptive (and disturbing) videos I’ve seen recently was made by the Swedish philosopher and professor at Oxford University, Nick BostromHe highlights the possibility of the AI system overriding human civilization with its own value structure.

Let me be more direct and didactic here.

He mentions that if AI develops methods of expressing feelings like love, hate, and sadness, AI may have rights too. It means that machines may fight for their rights like any of us. They can fight against being turned off or avoid working when certain conditions are not met.

I know what you may feel after reading this… It is scary, astonishing, and unsettling.

Going Back to Earth

Now, let’s move away from AI “Human Rights” and dive into our daily lives. Several ethical implications are arising, and we do not yet know how to handle them.

For example, there is a real potential for generative AI models to facilitate plagiarism. Have we entered an era of copy/paste 2.0? In fact, many institutions are starting to question the use of ChatGPT in education.

New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) and the Los Angeles Unified School District have already taken steps to ban ChatGPT. Citing negative impacts on content safety and accuracy, one spokesperson said, “While the tool may provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success.”

But is the ban feasible? Is prohibition the right approach? Do we need these bans, or do we need to reinvent education?

It is a question that each of us probably has a different answer for.

Organizations must carefully consider where they seek technological assistance, how to mitigate its effects, and how to verify the outputs generated by AI models.

While AI tools are capable of generating vast amounts of information, it is ultimately up to human judgment to determine how, when, and where this information is utilized.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles by Ricardo Vargas, PMI Fellow and recognized thought leader, is based on his LinkedIn newsletter called Beyond Hype in which he periodically shares his thoughts on emerging issues and potential concerns related to project management or the PM profession. Ricardo is a former Chair of the PMI Board of Directors and the author or co-author of many books on project management, including the recent  Project Management Next Generation: The Pillars for Organizational Excellence (co-authored with Dr. Harold Kerzner and Dr. Al Zeitoun). Learn more about the author in his profile at the end of this article.

How to cite this work: Vargas, V. V. (2023). Is AI Putting Our Values as a Society at Risk? Beyond Hype, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/pmwj132-Aug2023-Vargas-is-AI-putting-our-values-at-risk.pdf

About the Author

Ricardo Viana Vargas, PhD

Minas Gerais, Brazil
Lisbon, Portugal


Ricardo Viana Vargas is Managing Partner at Macrosolutions, past Executive Director of the Project Management Institute’s Brightline Initiative, past Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Infrastructure and Project Management Group, and former Chair of the PMI Board of Directors. Passionate about transforming ideas into action and a popular speaker at international PM events, Ricardo is recognized worldwide as a chief advocate for the project economy. Specializing in implementing innovative global initiatives, capital projects and product development, he has directed dozens of projects across industries and continents, managing more than $20 billion in global initiatives over the past 25 years.

Ricardo shares his expertise with millions of professionals around the globe through his “5 Minutes Podcast,” which he’s hosted since 2007. He has written 16 books on project management, risk and crisis management, and transformation, which have been translated into six languages and sold more than half a million copies.  His latest book Project Management Next Generation: The Pillars for Organizational Excellence, in partnership with Dr. Harold Kerzner and Dr. Al Zeitoun has recently been released.

Ricardo’s influence on project management was affirmed when he became the first Latin American to be elected Chairman of the Project Management Institute. More than two decades ago, he founded Macrosolutions, a global consulting firm with international operations in energy, infrastructure, IT, oil and finance. Between 2016 and 2020, Ricardo directed the Brightline Initiative, a Project Management Institute think tank bringing together leading organizations in a coalition dedicated to helping executives bridge the expensive, unproductive gap between strategic design and delivery.

Prior to his work with Brightline, Ricardo was Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) Infrastructure and Project Management Group, leading more than 1,000 projects and $1.2 billion in humanitarian and development projects. He has worked as a venture capitalist and entrepreneur in artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, chatbots and machine learning resulted in tools and products that have revolutionized how users bring agility and agile management into project management software.

Ricardo holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Federal Fluminense University in Brazil and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering, as well as a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. He can be contacted at ricardo@ricardo-vargas.com or ricardo-vargas.com  or Linkedin: com/in/ricardovargas.

To view other works by Ricardo Vargas, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/ricardo-viana-vargas-phd/