About two hundred years ago the notable industrial revolution immutably and significantly remolded our society. Today, however, another revolution is unfolding that has potentially further reaching ramifications. According to experts, artificial intelligence is going to significantly change and alter the way humans manufacture, produce and deliver.
In other words, it will change the way we work, live and connect with one another. Moreover, the scale of this change will be unlike anything we have experienced before.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
AI entails all attempts to make machines and devices think just like humans do. It involves everything from self-driving cars to SIRI, and the technology is progressing at a rapid pace. Although science fiction usually depicts artificial intelligence as smart robots that have characteristics similar to humans, AI could include anything, from IBM’s Watson and Google’s search algorithms.
Nowadays, artificial intelligence is typically known as weak AI (or narrow AI). Narrow AI is specifically designed and developed in order to carry out a narrow or specific task (such as internet searches, facial recognition or driving a vehicle). On the other hand, the second type of AI is often called strong AI or general AI. This type of AI is designed to solve problems by thinking just like humans.
It is important to note that while narrow or weak AI might outperform us at a particular task, for instance playing chess, general or strong AI is more likely to outperform us at almost every cognitive task.
Artificial Intelligence Terminology
Various terms have surfaced in relation to this technology in the recent past as it develops and evolves. These terms include machine learning, cognitive computing, and natural language processing. However, all of these different terms encapsulate the ground-breaking idea that one day machines will be able to learn and adapt on their own just like humans, instead of being spoon-fed each and every instruction for different outcomes. And, according to a lot of experts, that long-awaited day has finally arrived.
This is the main reason why nearly all major tech companies are investing considerable sums in AI-oriented technology, ranging from automatic border control agents to sophisticated autonomous cars. It is important to bear in mind that this phenomenon is not restricted to repetitive or simple tasks as a lot of jobs performed by humans can be done by cutting-edge computers systems in the near future.
For example, the search giant Google has recently announced its decision to develop an artificial intelligence system with the ability to write poetry! In addition, artificial intelligence is a core element of the popular concept called the Internet of Things, which is a futuristic world where various devices and machines will communicate smartly with one another in order to get various tasks done and leave humans free to enjoy life and relax.
AI Research and Applications
The latest “deep learning” AI algorithms, according to experts, are showing a lot of promise. For example, they have been successful in performing technical medical work. This type of specialized work was recently thought capable of being done only by human healthcare professionals and physicians. For instance, these deep learning and sophisticated algorithms have the ability to diagnose the absence or presence of tuberculosis with astonishing accuracy in chest x-ray images.
Similarly, researchers at Google have successfully trained an AI algorithm to detect the spread and speed of breast cancer into the lymph node tissue using microscopic specimen imaging with comparable human pathologists. Also, neural networks have proved to be a little better compared to human physicians when it comes to detecting changes in diabetes using images of a patient’s retina. Put differently, these rudimentary investigations into deep learning AI in the medical discipline demonstrate that these new algorithms are capable of performing as well as (or even better than) human physicians in a few fields of medical prognosis and diagnosis.
The Internet of Things
You must have noticed how personal computers have gotten smarter while getting smaller. Also, they have gotten much cheaper. Nowadays, you would find a computer inside almost anything that has an off/on switch. Thanks to artificial intelligence, all these new and high-tech devices such as toasters, thermostats, toothbrushes, cars and even light bulbs can now network and communicate with each other and with consumers and businesses as well.
For example, your car can now tell your smart home that you are almost home so that your home can send the instructions to preheat your oven to the right temperature so you can enjoy that delicious fish you just bought with your smartphone. Therefore, behind each device or gadget is a tech-driven customer, and these next generation of tech-savvy customers need a smart and connected experience. And this is happening on a massive scale and we are talking about billions of devices (six billion) that, according to experts, will request support by the end of 2018.
And it goes without saying that these billions of interconnected devices mean large volumes of consumer data. As a result, business organizations have to be very smart when it comes to gathering, digesting, and applying the huge volume of data, which is essential for IoT, but only when it is properly used.
Machine Learning and AI
With the help of machine learning, computers can take huge volumes of consumer data and build and refine it. They will not only operate not on what has been programmed but, would also intelligently adapt to various changes. Algorithms have the ability to adapt to data and develop behaviors that are not programmed in advance.
For example, learning to smartly read and recognize the context implies that digital assistants could scan your emails and extract exactly what they know you would like to know. Now isn’t that awesome! Who would have thought of that just 10 years ago? In addition, inherently built into this machine learning is the unique and useful ability to make important predictions relating to future behavior, to fully know and understand the customer and not only be reactive or responsive, but proactive.
Data Analysis and AI
There is a huge gap between customers and companies, which is only growing each day. For the massive amounts of data customers are generating, only less than one percent is analyzed. In other words, the gulf is so wide that almost 78% of customers are of the opinion that they are not connected or engaged with businesses.
This is mainly due to the fact that there are several ways to read and interpret data, which means you can draw a variety of conclusions regarding customer preferences, needs, and behaviors. However, the troubling thing is that most of this prospective insight is actually falling by the wayside as most businesses just are not prioritizing the evaluation and analysis of key data.
That being said, there are many new and intelligent tools that can reveal useful and valuable insights regarding the customer. It is also important to bear in mind that these key insights exist along a continuum or spectrum of intelligence. For example, the most basic or simple tools need you to extract information from them. On the other hand, the most intelligent or smart tools tend to “push” information your way. This is because they anticipate what you will need to know.
Prediction and AI
Data analysis and big data can reveal important patterns about customers’ buying habits and preference. And when smart machines and devices are able to read and interpret these patterns and continually learn from these patterns, they are poised to make valuable predictions.
So, they can figure out what may come next, and thereby make informed deductions that are much better compared to just assumptions; also, they can make valuable conclusions that are much better than mere guesses.
The true promise of an intelligent “digital assistant” is not merely the robotic voice that can answer our questions relating to movie timings and temperature, but one that actually knows our needs and patterns and can learn from them, reminding us to leave for the airport right now to beat that irresponsible record of arriving two minutes late 90 percent of the time.
The important thing is that the system should be fed, and only then we can fully benefit from connected devices and smarter machines that have the ability to anticipate our wants and needs. The more relevant and quality information we can feed into the system, the more intelligent and smarter it is going to get. This is the golden rule.
Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and AI
Virtual reality (VR) is also known as computer-simulated reality or immersive multimedia. VR tends to replicate an environment that often simulates physical presences in various places in an imagined or real world. This allows the users to fully interact in the simulated world. Keep in mind that virtual reality is an umbrella term used for all types of immersive experiences, which can be developed using purely synthetic content, purely real-world content or a combination of both.
Computer generated VR consists of immersive experiences that are developed completely from computer-generated content. Note that CG VR could be either rendered using a gaming engine in real time or pre-rendered and thereby not reactive, making it very similar to 360° video.
However, (AR) is often alive indirect or direct view of a real-world environment; the elements of this world are supplemented or augmented with computer-generated sensory input like video, sound, graphics and GPS data. Many VR headsets—like Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Sony’s Morpheus — work by blocking out the surrounding world and make use of a trick known as stereoscopy.
In addition, motion trackers track the users’ head and update the view as they move it around; also optional hand controllers let users interact with virtual objects. This creates a very convincing illusion that you are somewhere else entirely.
The New Workplace and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence will continue to impact and be a huge disruptor when it comes to modern workplace and jobs. The World Economic Forum published an important report in January 2016 predicting that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a variety of other new technologies would spur a Fourth Industrial Revolution. This revolution may end up replacing over 5 million jobs by the end of 2020.
As per the latest reports, jobs across every geographical region and every industry in fifteen of the largest economies in the world including Australia, Germany, Brazil, US, China, UK, and Japan among others — would be considerably affected. A study indicates that 6 jobs will be eliminated for each robot that is introduced into our workforce. According to a 2013 paper published by Oxford University, machines could replace about 48% of workers in the future.
One of the notable surprises of artificial intelligence in the past fifty years is that a majority of people believed that we would begin by automating trivial tasks, such as cleaning toilets or construction work, while the most difficult things will be what lawyers and doctors do. You will be surprised to know that it is actually the opposite. Lawyers and doctors are a lot easier to automate compared to street sweepers.
It goes without saying that the important question we should answer is what would people do in case a large number of jobs are taken over by AI programs and robots? According to business leaders and politicians who met recently at the World Economic Forum, millions of workers are now at risk of losing their jobs. In a book titled Rise of the Robots, the famous author Martin Ford explains both the economic and social disruption that may result when educated and talented workers cannot find employment.
Organizational Management and AI
In the coming years, everyone from lawyers, doctors, and scientists to economists and journalists are likely to find themselves replaced by or working with AI machines. Computers are now more capable of taking complex actions, making decisions and doing “knowledge work.”A report by Economist titled “The Future of Jobs,” articulated how whole professions would be affected through AI and automation. For example, auditing and accounting are functions which could be performed using expert AI systems, which puts these professions at a serious risk in their existing form.
Similarly, many middle management functions and decision making processes that are based on financial statements are also quite capable of being done by AI algorithms. Advancements in technology and automation are causing many firms and companies to restructure their specific organizational makeup, come up with new training models, transform their personnel departments as well as reevaluate and reassess their hiring practices and procedures. This was indicated in Deloitte’s 2017 report titled Human Capital Trends.
This report draws on various surveys from more than 10,000 business and HR leaders in nearly 140 countries. A majority of these drastic changes are due to the penetration of AI software in various industries, and the preparation for a number of organizational needs that are likely to emerge as they mature.
Education and Artificial Intelligence
To a considerable extent, the AI revolution would make obsolete, or force humans to rethink and revamp the existing education system as well as workplace development and training needs of teachers and instructors.
According to an Australian publication, in the next century, schools and colleges as most of us know them may not exist. These educational institutes will be replaced by community-style centers that will operate 24 hours per day, seven days in a week. Moreover, computers would become indispensable in schools and colleges of the future. The publication also asserts that students will hear and see their teachers on computers and remote learning is expected to become the norm of tomorrow.
Students are going to access “classrooms” on computers at their homes and would learn at times that are suitable and convenient for them. That being said, some physical attendance at actual schools would be needed to help them develop suitable social skills. In a 2011 book titled The Innovative University, a Harvard professor teaching business administration states that most universities may be overtaken by their competitors in case they do not adopt the latest technologies.
In addition, students will have to learn and get familiar with emotional and social skills if they want to flourish in the modern workplace. This was reported by a World Economic Forum publication. The latest research reveals that as our digital economy revolutionizes the workplace, emotional and social learning skills like communication, collaboration, as well as problem-solving, would become more vital as more conventional roles will get mechanized. As more than fifty percent of children now getting into schools are expected to be in jobs which do not yet exist, adaptability will become an important skill.
Cyber Security and AI
Nowadays, cyberspace is a growingly hostile environment. According to a 2015 study done by PWC, nearly 80 percent of US companies had reported a cybersecurity incident in that year. Sophisticated cyber attackers are using automation technology in order to launch strikes; similarly, a lot of organizations are using artificial intelligence to aggregate their internal security findings. AI also helps them contextualize these findings with any external threat information.
Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence
As you could see from our brief descriptions of the rapid growth and development in AI, they are likely to have a huge impact on our personal and professional lives. This is inevitable and will impact all industries. As a result, the process will lead to considerable disruption and it seems unlikely that humans would be able to prevent this imminent Fourth Industrial Revolution. That being said, it does offer us a great opportunity to address a variety of moral, ethical, legal as well as social issues. This also includes a big role on the part of governments to ensure these developments are used to benefit the people. In any case, those who proactively deal with these changes are likely to succeed.