As I open my Facebook profile, I see offers by Amazon on the side with the title, “Here are some black dresses especially recommended for you”. Wait what? How did Facebook know I was looking for a black dress? And how does it know what styles I like? How does Saavn (a music streaming service) know what songs I’d like to hear? How does Google Now know what I want even though I muttered something to it groggily? The answer is simple, and it’s everywhere! From the Fitbit on your wrist to the social networking sites you surf to the customer service offered by major companies, Artificial Intelligence has taken our lives by storm.
Machines outperforming humans is a tale as old as the Industrial Revolution. But as this process takes place in the exponentially evolving Information Age, many are beginning to question if human workers will be necessary at all. They believe that Artificial Intelligence has ushered in an era of a fourth Industrial Revolution with technologies like 3D printing, robotics and nanotechnology advancing at a faster pace than ever before. However, recent developments have shown that there is one significant difference between the two. Unlike the Industrial revolution phase, where machines were used to displace muscle power for mechanical labor, the algorithms used in the machines today are starting to pick up cognitive tasks. In a limited sense, they’re starting to think like people. They’re starting to encroach on that fundamental capability that sets us apart as a species – the ability to think.
There is constant debate as to whether artificial intelligence will replace human workers in the future. Many believe that it has the power to spread to every employment sector in the economy, which would not leave any safety net for the people. It is going to make virtually every industry, less labor intensive. On the contrary, there are also many people who opine that Artificial Intelligence is well, artificial and that it should be treated as such. They believe that however advanced the technology and artificial intelligence becomes, it would still be under the control of the human operating it.
The antagonistic view
“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come—namely, technological unemployment.”
This prediction was made in 1930 by world renowned economist, J.M Keynes in his essay titled ‘Economic possibilities for our grandchildren’. Had he predicted at that time what we are experiencing now? The phenomenon of fast-paced technological advancement displacing human jobs in different sectors of the economy. Many believe so, including famous theoretical physicist Stephen hawking who mentioned in his interview that the rise in artificial intelligence could potentially wipe out mankind. He is not alone in thinking so, and is joined by Elon Musk and Bill Gates who also believe that if this advancement is not brought about in a controlled manner, it could negatively impact the human race.
It is believed that with rapidly moving innovations and technological improvements, artificial intelligence could reach a phase where it is able to outsmart its creators. In this case, the Luddite fallacy could eventually have an expiration date. We have seen rising replacement of human labor with machines in the manufacturing sector, but what will happen when machines replace humans in the services sector, the one sector they call their home? There is no doubt that artificial intelligence will also lead to creation of jobs, but these jobs are majorly technologically advanced high end jobs. Middle skill jobs (secretaries, librarians, customer service and call centers etc.) are most likely to be fully replaced by innovative machines with cognitive computing capabilities. This has developed a fear among workers which has made them hesitant in fully embracing and adopting artificial intelligence.
The optimistic view
While there are some people against the full scale adoption of artificial intelligence, there are also many proponents of the technology. Many innovationists and developers are of the opinion that although artificial intelligence has the potential to become cleverer than their creators or replace them fully, we are nowhere close to that period. They put forth several points in favor of artificial intelligence.
The advancement can be utilized as a substitute for human professions that are dirty, dangerous or dull. Machines can be used to replace routine information processing tasks or repetitive tasks in a factory line which a human worker may find dull or boring. As a result, people could work only because they want to, and not because they need to. Humans have now decided that they were meant to be ballerinas, full-time musicians, athletes, fashion designers, yoga masters, fan-fiction authors, and folks with one-of-a kind titles on their business cards. With the help of our machines, we could take up these roles.
Since the technologies develop individually, they will hasten the development of other segments (for example, artificial intelligence might program 3D printers to create the next generation of robots, which in turn will build even better 3D printers). It’s what has recently been identified as the Law of Accelerating Returns: Everything is getting faster—faster
Furthermore (if not somewhat ironically), improving technologies can create novel opportunities by lowering the bar to positions that previously required years of training/experience; people without medical degrees might be able to handle preliminary emergency room diagnoses with the aid of an AI-enabled device, for example.
The machines are not replacing human jobs. In most cases, they are performing tasks that humans cannot do or couldn’t even think of. We are doing, and are sometimes paid for getting involved in, a number of new activities that would have stunned and amazed the farmers of 1850. These new accomplishments are not merely chores that had been difficult before. Rather they are really dreams that are created mainly by the capabilities of the machines that can do them. They are jobs the machines make up and for this reason, we are in need of a Watson or a Cleverbot or a MetaFore.
Co – existence
Society has always adjusted/adapted to technological changes in the past. This time is no different. Time and again it has been proven that human-computer teams beat all solely human or solely computer competitors. It’s time to work not against but alongside the machines.
Every successful bit of automation generates new occupations—occupations we would not have fantasized about without the driving of the automation. We all know how great it is when technology works, and just how frustrating it is when it doesn’t. Even large reputed technology companies haven’t completely eliminated their human customer support teams, because when something goes wrong, it is usually a human who needs to repair it.
Generally, there will always exist a need for on-site, human expertise when we deal with machines. Robots will have glitches, need revisions and require new parts. As we rely increasingly more on mechanized systems and automation, we will require more people with specialized skills to revise, update, fix and take care of these systems and hardware. This will lead to new jobs being created in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields like nanotechnology and robotics.
We are at an interesting transition point where we are moving from using tools to perform work that we were unable to do, to using them as active partners in our decision making processes. For example, in a pharmacy setting, machines could automate the process of filling up prescriptions while the pharmacist can concentrate on more interesting work such as advising the patient. This combination of AI and HI has the potential to dawn upon us an era of unprecedented creativity, innovation and intelligence in every decision making process. Human intelligence collaborating with artificial intelligence will help us in leveraging the best of both worlds. Where machines can perform repetitive, dangerous or delicate tasks for us, we can help machines with soft skills such as asking questions, planning, creative problem solving, and empathy where they lag behind.
What do we, at MaFoi feel about AI?
To find out how soon MaFoi employees feel they would be able to witness advanced artificial intelligence becoming a part of day-to-day life, we conducted a survey. The results are as follows:
The results clearly show that we are absolutely ready for AI to take over our daily functions (except major life-altering ones). In the areas of finance, marketing and other business functions, we are already there.
Just like any other technological advancement, AI has also been met with uncertainty and mistrust, but there can be no doubt regarding the potential of AI together with HI. The power of human creativity working with artificial intelligence can be applied to any field, be it cooking, transportation, athletics or business. The results will always be better than a fully manual or fully automated approach. Instead of thinking about ways in which artificial intelligence can replace our jobs, we should think about the ways in which we can work together with artificial intelligence to make this world a much better and much advanced place to live in.
At MaFoi, we embrace every novel technology with open arms. We constantly look for ways to keep ourselves updated with the latest technology, and therefore have made significant advances in the field of artificial intelligence with our cognitive computing expert, MetaFore. MetaFore uses AI, pattern recognition and Natural Language Processing to find hidden patterns and insights in different forms of data.
It’s time to buckle up and hop on the Artificial Intelligence Bandwagon. We already have our Jarvis (Read: MetaFore), what are you waiting for?