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The Artificial Intelligence revolution that is coming

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Artificial intelligence, the ability of computers to perform activities associated with intelligent beings. A world where computers can think for themselves and be as intelligent as the human being. Would this be a good thing for the world? AI, has its benefits and a lot to offer but at the same time it comes with a price. As for the price, humans have already started to pay through job losses and if sci-fi movies are a prediction, our existence itself. 

Forms of Artificial Intelligence

There are three forms of AI. Process automation, cognitive insights and cognitive engagement. 

1.) Process automation: This is widely beginning to roll out in the manufacturing sector as manufacturing is being automated to save costs and increase efficiency. Supermarkets have started using automation globally for self-checkout reducing labor costs and quickening services. 

2.) Cognitive insights: Using algorithms using a lot of data to predict what the human being can want. This is used by Facebook and YouTube. The Facebook newsfeed and YouTube recommended videos on the side of our screens are according algorithms using AI.

3.) Cognitive engagement: This is computer engagement with clients. This is used to offer 24/7 customer service where bots reply to customer queries to a certain extent offering solutions to common questions. Unique or complex questions still need humans to answer but machine learning is increasing by the day.

Benefits of AI technology

Artificial Intelligence no doubt has a lot of positives to offer to us in the coming decades. It can take over the time consuming jobs of humans and do it faster, leading to increased efficiency. Increased automation can allow humans to do creative work leaving the boring time consuming jobs like data entry and replying to emails to the machines. 

It can also reduce operational costs which will result in cheaper products to the consumer and also more profits which translates into more corporate taxes. 

These taxes can be used to provide welfare benefits to the citizens. There is an argument that increased taxes due to less operational costs can bring in universal basic income to the populace. Universal basic income is providing every citizen a minimum amount of money for free with no conditions.

Smart homes using AI can be energy efficient and have better security with automated surveillance around the house. Healthcare is a sector where AI is making inroads. MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2013 using IBM Watson tried to diagnose and recommend treatment for certain types of cancer but after a few years the project was halted due to high costs. But later they used it for smaller work like recommending hotels and restaurants for patients’ families and determining which patients needed help with paying bills and it was a success. 

One of the main criticisms of AI is that it will take away human jobs. In the 1990s, computers were feared as they would take jobs away but it turned out that they did create millions of new jobs from software engineering to computer hardware manufacturing and created massive new tech companies which created immense wealth over the past decades. 

Similarly, AI can create jobs as well, as research shows that AI related jobs have increased 5 fold in the last 5 years. AI and humans working together can immensely increase efficiency with AI being not prone to human errors.

Dangers of Artificial Intelligence

As robots become more and more intelligent and able to think for themselves, it will become very dangerous if we lose control of them or if they decide they will stop obeying human orders. This is an argument by Tesla’s Elon Musk. Elon Musk even argues that robots could take over the world. Though it sounds farfetched, it can be a possibility as robots, once they can operate on their own may think humans are a liability to this world with humans consuming a lot of resources in the world.  

Though killer robots make headlines and make good movies in Hollywood, we are already seeing the effects of robot thinking in the world and have already been influenced by it. We already know that Facebook’s algorithm based on AI has influenced the voting results leading to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US. Also, when it comes to a fully computerised world, there is always the danger of hacking. If someone gets into the system, a lot of damage can be caused.

Where are we?

Currently around 15% of businesses in the US are using AI related technology but this is set to more than double in the coming year showing explosive growth to come in this sector. AI startups have also increased fifteen-fold since 2000 showing that many new startups in AI are springing up to meet the demand. About 40% of consumers believe AI will improve customer service showing a positive sign from the consumers and showing people do trust AI.

The general perception of artificial intelligence is that it is still in the sci-fi movies and far off but what people do not realise is that we are living in a time of rapid change and artificial intelligence is taking over more and more of the world.  AI spending is set to hit $46 billion by 2020 and this is a very serious business and if countries like Sri Lanka do not take notice they will be left behind.

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