The Future of Artificial Intelligence

Last month I got the opportunity to pick the brain of some of the T500 nominees during The Next Web Conference 2018. In this article, I’ll share their views on a frequently recurring presentation topic at the event: Artificial Intelligence (AI). Not only did I ask them about the opportunities they saw, but also about the — at least as important — challenges and risks they identified.

Daniëlle Tump (25)

What are your opinions on Elon Musk’s view that AI could become more intelligent than the humans that created it?

I’m in two minds. On the one hand, I do believe that AI can teach itself to become smarter than humans. But on the other hand, I think that if a human creates AI it can therefore control the limits in which it functions. For Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) I don’t see any problems because it requires humans to read brainwaves. BCI still has a long way to go, before being able to function in a more complex manner. At present, BCI can be used in the healthcare system, for example. It can help people move, eat or steer their wheelchair. But it can also be used for entertainment purposes: changing the song you’re listening to just by thinking about it, instead of typing it in your phone or computer.

Do you think there is sufficient knowledge about the brain to make optimum use out of BCI?

Understanding the brain is a huge challenge on itself, let alone understanding each individual brain. Each brain is different, depending on the person and their surroundings. But I don’t believe we should delay further development of BCI, just because we don’t understand everything yet. There are already several useful applications, despite not having a complete understanding of the brain and its capacities. That said, it will become necessary to develop policies when BCI is used in daily life. If used for a polygraph, for example.

Coen van Hees (23)

What do you think about the possible risks in the AI industry?

As an entrepreneur, you tend to think in opportunities. But I think this is just the tip of the iceberg: there are lots of positive sides, but we shouldn’t forget to keep an eye on our own safety. There should be a lot of transparency within the AI industry and we need to be aware of the scenario in which computers become smarter than humans. For that reason, we should already develop laws and regulations based on that possible scenario to make sure AI has a positive impact on the world.

In which fields do you see any business opportunities for AI?

Last Christmas tens of millions Alexa devices were sold in the US. It doesn’t take long before we see the same numbers here in Europe. Given the rapidly increasing percentage of searches through voice, I think in 3 to 5 years time personalized AI assistants will be a big thing. Also, conversational AI will reach new heights: currently it is mainly being used in the customer service industry but in the short term we will also see applications in other verticals.

Lyuba Polyanskaya (22)

How do you see AI develop in the next few years?

At the first day of the conference, there was a talk about emotional artificial intelligence: how to make AI more empathetic. In my opinion, this is a direction we are definitely going into — I found out that 37% of all people want to have their AI more resembling a human in a psychological sense. They want to have the experience of talking to a person when they talk to a chatbot. I think AI will become ever more advanced and it will become virtually impossible for a human to distinguish between talking to a real person or a robot. This could lead to personal psychology assistance. Machines will thus be able to help with empathy and emotions in general.

What challenges do you see in the field of AI?

Personally, I think the biggest problem is that personal consumer data are being used by corporations while the least minority of people understands to what extent our data is being exploited and how it exposes our private life. That’s why I think we should start educating people to have computer literacy. For example, people just unconditionally accept cookies. They don’t read the terms of agreements at all. There should be courses on educating people on the privacy aspect of digital work and of course there should be new regulations.

Yassine Gherbi (21)

How do you think technology affects our ability to follow our dreams?

I was helping my little brother in choosing a study. When I checked this website where you could see your chances of being able to find a job after your study, I was shocked: everything in the technology branch had a 90–100% chance of finding a job, but the rest only around the 60% or 70% mark. Technology is developing so fast, it makes me wonder if people still get the chance to follow their dreams if their job guarantee is so low. Machines are taking over a lot of jobs and this is not a bad thing per se, but I do think lots of people will become very unhappy if they start doing jobs they don’t actually enjoy.

How do you see technology having an effect on society?

At the moment, we’re trying to solve everything with technology. Sometimes I think: shouldn’t we be more careful in the adoption of state-of-the-art technologies? For instance, take the example of the self-driving cars from Tesla: people started trusting it right away and then this awful accident happened leaving a woman dead. On the other hand, given the developments of medical automation systems, I would not be surprised if in 20 years from now you can order your medication online without the intervention of any GP.

Whether that will actually happen is hard to say, but one thing is for sure: the future of work is going to look radically different and AI will play a big role in that respect. Computers will be able to write articles undistinguishable from ones writen by humans. How long will that still take? Only time will tell, but it might be sooner than you think. Talking about that, did I actually write this piece of content, or was it already created by AI? Now think again and take action before you are the next one being irrelevant.

P.S. Special thanks to Antoine and Georgia for helping me bring this republished article to life! Read the original article over here to learn more about inequalities of opportunities and the future of education.

P.P.S. Check out this hand-picked playlist for my 10 favourite TNW talks!

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