When I search for "artificial intelligence", Google finds me 79 million relevant links, 2.24 million videos, 2 million recent news articles, and 0.74 million books. It's been a buzzword this past year, and will continue to be popular in 2017. Personally, I find all things AI fascinating. I travelled all the way to Singapore last year to get on one of those autonomous cabs plying in One-North.
AI has the potential to revolutionise everything we do—in our home, on the street and in the workplace. Hollywood has conditioned us to expect, and sometimes fear, robots taking over the world at some point in the not-so-distant future. That future has arrived. It's powered by AI—a digital consciousness sitting somewhere on the cloud, analysing and interpreting data, and making decisions.
AI has already cost 34 employees their jobs at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, a Japanese company.
But AI is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it will make your life really simple. On the other, it will help your employer make you redundant.
AI's biggest strength is its ability to learn from data (machine learning) and calculate the possibility of future events with reasonable accuracy (deep learning). While AI is young, still learning things for the first time, it has already cost 34 employees their jobs at Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance. The Japanese company spent just US$1.73 million on an AI-based smart system developed by IBM and expects to recoup its investment in less than two years.
"The skills in which humans have maintained a comparative advantage are likely to erode over time as AI and new technologies become more sophisticated," says a report published by the Executive Office of the President of the United States of America, in December 2016. By 2025, Forrester forecasts that cognitive technologies such as AI will replace 16% of US jobs and create an equivalent of 9% jobs—a net loss of 7% of US jobs. Since a large percentage of routine tasks such as customer services, data management and analytics are outsourced, logic suggests that emerging markets like India and the Philippines will lose out on a lot more jobs.
Shiny new AI-powered things
If you've been paying attention to your social media feed, you'll know that competitors are preparing to beat Tesla's autonomous cars into your garage. BMW, Nissan, Hyundai and Audi showcased their autonomous cars at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year. They all look promising. Let's look some other examples of how AI is changing your world:
Customer service: In early 2016, DBS Bank's AI-powered chatbot, launched in India in partnership with Kasisto, made headlines, and many prominent banks followed suit. Most recently, Yes Bank partnered with Gupshup to launch a chatbot that works with Facebook messenger. The UK's National Health Services (NHS) has also launched a similar chatbot. Created by Babylon, it will serve 1.2 million people living in North London who can use the app instead of calling the NHS 111 non-emergency medical helpline.
While I don't imagine content produced by AI will win a Pulitzer... journalists need to either learn to use AI to craft more engaging content—or learn another trade.
Journalism: The Associated Press is using Artificial Intelligence to write Minor League Baseball articles, reported the Daily Mail in mid 2016. Situated within Harvard University, The Neiman Journalism Lab says it "attempts to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age." When asked about AI and journalism in 2017, Francesco Marconi, manager of strategy and development at the Associated Press said: "The combination of AI and journalism will contribute to a more informed and efficient society by enabling journalists to conduct deep analysis, uncover corruption, and hold people and institutions accountable." While I don't imagine content produced by AI will win a Pulitzer anytime soon, journalists need to either learn to use AI to craft more engaging content—or learn another trade.
Medicine: Insilico Medicine recently published a paper that serves as a proof of concept for applying Generative Adversarial Networks to drug discovery. EurekaAlert!, which published a summary of the findings of the study, said it basically means AI can now be used to generate new cancer drugs on demand. Stanford University also conducted a study last year and found that computers could be trained to be better pathologists and provide more accurate prognoses. All of this, depending on how quickly people welcome this wave of digitisation, suggests that AI is quite literally changing the face of medicine.
2017 is going to be exciting for AI enthusiasts. A lot of you out there need to assess your role in the workforce and its future, but if you start now, you'll be ahead of the curve and have a better chance of surviving everything AI. "Soon, we won't program computers. We'll train them like dogs," said the headline of a story published on Wired Magazine's online portal. I quite agree, but I think we would be well advised to choose our language carefully. They're listening and learning from everything we put out there in the digital world. Their memories are enormous and permanent.