With Artificial Intelligence we are summoning the demon
Let this quote by Elon Musk be the precursor to the ensuing discussion in this article. Technology, without a doubt, is an enabler of almost everything today. From banking transactions to food ordering, from shopping to education, technology is everywhere, simplifying our lives.
However, there is a downside to it, as opined by Musk in the above quote. Too much dependence, perhaps, isn’t going to serve the same purpose as it has done previously. Artificial intelligence is certainly a great tool of innovation, however, the speculation that it would kill menial jobs, at large, cannot be denied either.
A couple of years ago I was watching this episode of ‘Human Need Not Apply’ that drew a great analogy to describe the great AI debate of today. Imagine two eighteenth-century horses discussing how the man-made machine is going to simplify their lives. While one of the horses was of the opinion that with the introduction of new machines, horses will get rid of the tiring jobs, the other horse feared losing jobs, once and for all. And now as we sit in our 21st-century air-conditioned offices, we can clearly observe that horses are thrown out of the economy. Even horse population has seen a steep decline over years.
Perhaps, the situation is not that dire for us, just yet, however, the human race is standing at the same vantage point as those metaphorical horses. While the world is immersed in the debate, whether or not AI can take away menial jobs, there is a possibility that we are cumulatively moving towards an unknown paradigm.
What Good AI is Doing Right Now?
First off, Artificial intelligence can produce wonders through its natural language processing (NLP) capabilities. From onboarding new employees to training existing ones, from speech analytics to coaching virtual assistants, NLP is a catalyst that can effectively drive such endeavors.
Secondly, automation, which is a crucial element of AI, is a strong tool to streamline iterative jobs. This not only enhances the efficiency of a firm but also positively impacts the productivity of employees.
Thirdly, AI has changed the entire landscape of online shopping, video streaming, once and for all. With automated product and video suggestion based on consumer web search, the e-commerce and content space has been revolutionized.
Why is AI Speculated as a Demon?
After highlighting what good AI is doing presently, let us venture into the area that has been at the center-stage of debates across the world. Musk’s statement “With Artificial Intelligence we are summoning the demon” is a glimpse of the viewpoint that industry thought leaders hold.
The concerns raised by the likes of Musk isn’t baseless. With the proliferation of AI, more and more systems are going to be automated. We have already witnessed the rise in the use of bots to assemble cars and the day is not far when other jobs that now require manual labor are going to be controlled by AI-powered bots.
As per a report, if automation becomes commonplace, it will render almost 47 percent of human population jobless. This, admittedly, would create chaos and in the fight for survival bots and humans would be on opposite ends.
This is the exact scenario that every industry leader is trying to avoid. The luminaries such as Elon Musk are constantly warning everyone of this wary situation. And it is about time we open our eyes.
Having said that, the progress in AI hasn’t been tremendous either. Facebook’s Head of AI, Yann Lecun remarks “Our most advanced AI systems are dumber than a rat”. However, we cannot be complacent at all. One bright mind, one major innovation can turn the table.
Therefore, it is imperative to understand that technology must be an enabler and not a source of unrest. Its judicious use is incumbent to tip the scales in the direction of mankind’s benefit.