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Intelligence Everywhere: The Post-AI World

By Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington

We are seeing an accelerating pace of development and widespread embedding of algorithms that replicate core human intelligence functions from language and image processing to planning, reasoning, and decision making. The next three decades of artificial intelligence (AI) development may provide the opportunity to create valuable and previously unthinkable customer experiences that would require new levels of human trust in smart machines. In a post-AI world, is the future still human?

Enhancing Human Activity

Artificial intelligence technology is gaining rapid traction in three key areas: supporting human decision making e.g. fault diagnosis; freeing up humans from routine tasks e.g. service chatbots; and undertaking activities at a scale and speed that is beyond human capability e.g. identifying persons of interest in a crowd. The use of AI-enabled tools opens up the potential to draw on vast volumes of data.

AI technology is being deployed ever more widely to free up humans to do tasks that require the kinds of creativity, problem solving abilities, and communications skills that are currently beyond most AIs. The advantages of AI over human labor include the fact that robots don’t tire, complain, or need breaks. Presently, the use of AI in many industries has touched upon all of these areas. For example, low-wage, manual work has been enhanced or outsourced completely in many instances, from food preparation to legal research. The ability of an algorithm to outwork and outperform a human doesn’t mean jobs are doomed; in many cases, robots (or, “cobots”) may soon allow for a partnership where humans can excel.

A Hidden Technology

It’s clear that the prospect of an enhanced workforce is what makes AI an attractive and profitable proposition. However, the business case for AI may not be enough to sustain public support for the technology. Much of the positive hype around AI has focused on a few key points, such as operational efficiency. The oft highlighted negatives are the potential to take jobs from human workers.

All stakeholders, from customers to community leaders, may need to experience AI in person to appreciate how it can enhance human activity. As yet, the exposure of AI to the mainstream has been limited and subtle. It’s safe to say that, for the most part, consumers don’t know they’re interacting with it. New self-aware systems might be able to detect cues from their human counterparts, such as body language or tone of voice. Design that conveys humanization of robotic and AI technology may help people feel comfortable with self-aware technology.

Human-Machine Cooperation

The potential to collaborate with AI is already driving a number of applications. While today’s AI interactions tend to be mundane (checking the traffic or the weather, autocorrect) future cooperation between humans and machines may open new frontiers of the human experience such as superhuman strength, bionic capacities, and enhanced sensory perception. Algorithmic decision-making tools at our disposal would put decision making, and fact-checking in the hands of AI and robots. Furthermore, personalized AI systems might one day know us better than we know ourselves. Personalized AI may ultimately be involved in the minutiae of professional, medical, recreational, educational, social, and commercial aspects of most people’s lives.

Professional job roles such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, and marketing professionals may be severely displaced by the rise of human-level AI by 2040. Such a development could eliminate significant chunks of the human workforce and introduce different options for human involvement in business activities. Ideally, autonomous systems could displace humans but open up new possibilities for applying human potential.

AI’s Societal Impact

Experts have forecast other benefits of AI including that someday it could have a meaningful impact on all of our lives in different ways, even affecting the most disadvantaged people in society. There is a symbiotic relationship at work, too, where as we change AI it also changes us. For example, a growing intimacy with AI may introduce new ideas about robot rights and questioning sentience might impact how robotic labor is utilized in the future.

Another fact to be reckoned with is that AI can be placed into an authoritarian role. For example, cities are likely to rely heavily on AI technologies to detect and predict crime in the future. Further out, the technologies enabling brain-to-brain sharing of thoughts could eliminate privacy and free will altogether.

AI is for Everyone

For these reasons, and more, it’s important that AI be applied in a way that is not just technologically innovative but revolutionary in terms of advancing civic engagement, emotional intelligence, social bonds, interpersonal skills, and enhancing humanity overall. The simultaneous spread of AI into homes, businesses, cities, and schools means there is no way to avoid its impact. Finding the right AI-to-human ratio in every situation will require thoughtful experimentation to determine the appropriate level of automation.


This article was published in FutureScapes. To subscribe, click here.

Image: By gdg


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