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What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Are you intrigued by the sheer ease with which Facebook tags your friends and family when you post a photo? Or how Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa & Microsoft’s Cortana help you find information, give you direction and add events to your calendar? How does Outlook know that some emails should go into your Clutter folder when you never marked them as spam? All these are powered by Artificial Intelligence technologies. But what is AI after all?
Despite all the technological progress we have made, the human brain continues to be the most powerful computer. Intelligence is a combination of learning, logical reasoning, problem-solving, perception, understanding languages and the ability to communicate using these languages. The human brain can do all of these using a fraction of a typical computer’s resources, and with a tiny amount of power. For decades, computer scientists have pursued the goal of making machines more intelligent, by trying to impart these attributes of the human brain to them and AI is the end product of these relentless efforts.
Why should we care? From the time we wake up to the time we go to bed, AI is already entrenched in most aspects of our personal and professional lives. Here are just a few examples of a far longer list:
Now that we’ve seen how AI is already part of our lives, let us see how various enterprises are adopting AI, or at least thinking about it.
When compared with human intelligence, machine intelligence is still in its infancy. It is like a baby learning shapes, colours and numbers in its formative years. In addition to these foundational concepts, babies also slowly learn behaviour and the ability to differentiate between good and evil. Every responsible parent wants their baby to grow up to become a responsible and respectable individual. The onus is now on the IT industry to build machine intelligence that will display similar responsibility and care.
Isaac Asimov’s 1942 ‘Runaround’, a science fiction piece, merits a mention in this context. In this work, Isaac introduced three laws that governed the behaviour of robots, known to generations of sci-fi fans as the Three Laws of Robotics. These laws are:
These laws were profound and ahead of their time. Simple as they appear, these laws are currently very challenging to implement in the machines being created. Nevertheless, the IT industry must continue its pursuit to leave no stone unturned in incorporating and building upon these to ensure the creation of ‘Responsible AI’.
How do we stay relevant?
Understandably, there is a lot of fear and concern about AI and its impact on society. In particular, there are conversations about AI & Automation taking millions of jobs away. In my view, AI is supposed to assist human beings in doing their jobs better. I quote Dr. Somashekhar from Manipal Hospitals after they introduced IBM Watson in the oncology department.
"Doctors also have different opinions on what treatment protocol to follow for a patient, based on different experiences. In Manipal, we normally sit together to decide. Now, we have another important member (Watson). It not only gives the right treatment option, it also provides evidence for why option A will work better than option B".
Like any wave of technological & social change (the Industrial Revolution, the introduction of electrification, the advent of the automobile, successive waves of computing led change among other technological advancements) there will be some jobs that will lose relevance due to AI. There however will also be more new jobs and professions created by AI, which will allow people to focus on activities only humans can do, which will be more interesting and fulfilling. Some interesting jobs that AI is likely to throw up include:
There are numerous opportunities that AI presents us with, for improving our day-to-day lives and helping organizations build intelligent systems that will improve efficiency, boost the top-line and enhance the customer experience. The key for us as individuals is to be curious and approach these with open minds. We need to be ready to embrace these changes as generations before us did with industrial & agricultural automation. If we reskill ourselves to adopt new ways of doing things, there are opportunities that the AI-driven world will offer us. And if we understand this world well, we can fulfil our obligation to build ‘Responsible AI’ by baby-sitting these new machines and imparting the right behaviours to them. It’s time to embrace the possibilities!
- By Madhusudhan KM, Senior Vice President – Chief Technology Officer