The New Great Age: The Age of AI and Automation
(Chapter 1) Artificial Intelligence And Its Significance
Mankind, throughout history, has gone through massive changes. Dozens, if not hundreds, of advances, have claimed to have revolutionized our lives. Our historical timeline could be broken into 4 great ages, 4 moments that have altered the course of human development, culture, and livelihood. The first of which was the discovery of fire, and the creation of language. Which then led to the great age of agriculture and cities. Now that we had harnessed the omnipotent fire, learned how to communicate, built cities and started farming, humans started looking for ways to encapsulate their knowledge and also share it with the rest of the world. This led to the birth of writing and wheels. According to ourworldindata.org only 12% of the population could read and write in 1820, today the share has reversed: only 14% of the world population, in 2016, remained illiterate. Over the last 65 years, the global literacy rate increased by 4% every 5 years — from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015 (Literacy, by Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, First published in 2013; last revision September 20, 2018.)
With more and more people able to read and write, and in general have education, the world once again started developing, leading us to our fourth age, the age contemporary to us. The age of Robots and Artificial Intelligence.
What Is Artificial Intelligence (AI):
Artificial Intelligence, is a term that researchers and developers till this day have not been able to properly wrap their head around. I will try my best to explain what AI means and why it is significant in today’s society. Throughout the series of chapters, I will keep my explanations easy to comprehend.
The term Artificial Intelligence was coined all the way back in 1955, by math professor John McCarthy. The professor, later on, regretted calling it AI, and suggested the term computational intelligence, and even today, many do not like the term Artificial Intelligence, as it seems alarming. Although I agree with insecurity created by the definition of AI, I also stand by the fact that if perceived and properly utilized, automation will be more of a companion rather than a competitor.
A widely accepted definition of artificial intelligence is that it is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. AI uses machine learning to mimic human intelligence. To be able to mimic humans the computer has to learn how to respond to certain actions, so it uses algorithms and historical data to create something called a propensity model. A propensity model is a statistical approach and a set of techniques that attempt to estimate the likelihood of subjects performing certain types of behaviour. Most of us can relate to this, for example when we do online shopping and search up an item or even browse on the internet, we see advertisements related to the product. This is no coincidence, it is the AI using the customer’s data, machine learning, and other computational concepts to predict a customer’s wants. Later on in our chapters, we will discuss how AI is not just portrayed robots with human-like characteristics, and the three types of AI.
As artificial intelligence develops, a growing number of public sectors and companies are looking for ways to utilize automation, and why not? The benefits of AI are numerous, let’s look at some today.
Robots and AI will help people perform their tasks better, not just take their jobs. The combination of man and machine will be unstoppable. In fact collaboration between humans and artificial intelligence is already happening. The Harvard Business Review completed research involving 1,500 businesses, concluding that companies benefit the most when humans and machines are working together (Collaborative Intelligence: Humans and AI Are Joining Forces, by H. James Wilson and Paul R. Daugherty From the July–August 2018 Issue). BMW discovered that when their robot and human teams worked together, they were approximately 85% more productive compared to when they had robots working on one side of the factory, and their employees working on their old automated assembly line on the other side of the factory. James Wilson, an expert in the field of Artificial Intelligence describes, “Together, they really started to see those big productivity improvements that just weren’t possible through the old way of thinking about automation.” (James Wilson, Co-author of Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, published on 26 June 2018). Collaboration of humans and AI is a topic that will be further discussed in later chapters.
Who Needs Breaks?
An average human worker works for around 40hrs/week, humans need breaks to function and produce results, some might need less than others. Yes Elon, I am talking about you. That being said, no human can work without taking rest, as they simply would die otherwise. On the other hand, robots are more active and don’t get tired like humans. Automation can work on repetitive tasks without taking breaks and getting bored. They can work 24/7/365 without making any error. An epitome of this is how robots could be used to wrap chocolates, a task which is boring, repetitive and needs no creativity. Humans will have to take breaks, whilst robots would do the task with no stops and absolutely zero error.
Lightning Fast Decisions:
Humans before making a decision analyse a situation both emotionally and practically, whilst AI uses machine learning to make decisions. In simpler words, automation uses previously fed data to make decisions. For example, in the movie I, Robot, when Will Smith was drowning with another little girl. A robot decided to save Smith over the girl due to his chances of survival being higher than the girl. Although this example might be from a movie and might seem too far-fetched, automation can make similar decisions. A study conducted by the MIT Technology Review on who should a self-driving car kill, a baby or a grandma found that the decision depends on which region you live in. In cultures that revere the elderly, the car would aim for the child, while in the West, which prizes youth, the car would hit the grandmother. Either way, the car would come to a decision way faster than a human, as ample data has been fed to it. That being said, the final decision might be ambiguous. (Should a self-driving car kill the baby or the grandma? Depends on where you’re from. By Karen Hao, published on October 24th 2018).
The novel age of AI has plenty to offer. Similar to previous ages, AI will benefit humanity in numerous ways. Above, I have listed just three, but there are many more. However, like any invention, AI has drawbacks too, something we will talk about in chapter 2.