Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here. It’s not a future notion but is being incorporated into businesses every day. Why? Because it has the capacity to greatly improve the efficiency of many, selected processes, thereby freeing up time for employees to use elsewhere and offering better ROI. Many people fear Artifical Intelligence as they think AI systems will overtake humanity, posing very real threats to people in addition to the common belief that they will replace employees as they invade the working environment. Over time, AI may reduce the need for certain job roles but, as the business landscape evolves, more jobs will be created. AI systems offer efficient and exciting solutions to certain problems in varying industries; they are best implemented alongside employees to carry out mundane tasks and make decisions that require an almost incomprehensible amount of information, so that the employees can play to their creative, entrepreneurial and insightful strengths.
Fears of the ‘Self-Teaching’ Machine
The condemnatory fear unifying AI critics is that of its self-teaching capacity. AI’s ability to learn is precisely what makes it different from automation software. Ideytech describes this difference: ‘Artificial Intelligence has the ability to learn, depending on how it is programmed while Robotic Process Automation only functions on repetitive tasks and simulation’. AI’s capacity for ML (Machine Learning) has led many people to adopt the misconception that AI has, or will develop, a consciousness. In ‘The Business of Artificial Intelligence’, an article featured on the Harvard Business Review, disillusions this misconception regarding ML:
‘If someone performs a task well, it’s natural to assume that the person has some competence in related tasks. But ML systems are trained to do specific tasks, and typically their knowledge does not generalize. The fallacy that a computer’s narrow understanding implies broader understanding is perhaps the biggest source of confusion, and exaggerated claims, about AI’s progress.’
AI machines are not conscious. But, the complicated way in which they process infinite amounts of information before making a decision that leads to their development means that the reason behind certain decisions could easily be beyond human comprehension. The human fixes the machine, but for AI, the machine fixes itself. This means that, if the machine makes a mistake that the human is unable to understand, the human may have immense trouble manually overriding the machine. Concerns such as this have been expressed in demands made by the Tesla boss, Elon Musk.
Recently, Musk called for stricter new legislation to regulate AI development. According to Information Age, the technological connoisseur claimed that AI is the biggest “existential threat” to humanity. He is in the midst of arguing for ‘the UN to ban killer robots’, including ‘lethal autonomous weapons – drones, machine guns, tanks – on the battlefield’. There is certainly some gravity to his demands and AI research should be carefully regulated. Nonetheless, if anything, this highlights the importance of specified application of AI in business.
Specified Application & Industry Impacts
All technology is created with a specified purpose in mind and AI is no different. In fact, the ML ability that defines AI is often the reason for its incorporation into business.
The Havard Business Review encapsulates the reality of specified application in the work place:
‘The most effective rule for the new division of labor is rarely, if ever, “give all tasks to the machine.” Instead, if the successful competition of a process requires 10 steps, one or two of them may become automated while the rest become more valuable for humans to do’.
Essentially, AI will facilitate business growth by allowing employees to focus on jobs that only people can do. AI has led to some groundbreaking improvements in critical fields. For example, Fow Community makes reference to the new technologies making waves in the healthcare industry:
‘There are numerous robots in various stages of testing and approval for diagnosing disease. In some cases, such as with IBM’s Watson, these machines have a higher accuracy for diagnoses than human doctors’.
This does not mean that doctors will become obsolete; the idea is simply ludicrous. Instead, this means that doctors can spend their time on other, urgent or particularly difficult cases. AI machines can be overseen and referred to by doctors. The same is true across a multitude of industries, The Next Web cites quotes from industry professionals who see potential in AI, fields ranging from Forecasting, Customer Service, Education, Finance, Foodservice, Personalized Healthcare, Medical, Logistics, Loyalty Programs, Marketing, Procurement, Public Relation, Search and Security. John Rampton of Due, talks about the education industry and specialised teaching:
“I think AI will change how schools create curriculums and teach students, who all learn in different ways. The same patterns used to identify behaviors and differences in other industries will be used to understand how each student learns so that customized teaching methods can be easily deployed”.
Similarly to the application of AI in healthcare, the application of AI in education will not result in the replacement of AI’s predecessor – teachers. Imagine the impact AI could have on children with learning difficulties or disabilities. Autistic children, who would perhaps learn much more from a machine than a teacher, would certainly benefit from the introduction of AI into schools.
AI is Already Part of Our Everyday Lives
You are already using AI technology without perhaps realising. The most obvious is Apple’s Siri, which collects information on your requests uses that to better recognise your voice and make suggestions for you. Another example of the ubiquitous presence of AI can be found on Facebook. The social media platform uses AI facial recognition software to make it easier for people to tag their friends. Mark Zuckerberg is a renowned advocate of AI technology and yet, you still keep your Facebook account despite Facebook’s ever growing knowledge about you.
There is too much potential inherent in AI technology for it to go unused and wasted. It should be seen as a friend to professionals and people in general, not a rival we are afraid will make the human race redundant. Nonetheless, it should be regulated and overseen by people who ensure its specified application.