It is almost innumerable to mention how and in what ways AI has impacted our lives: the way we work, the way we live, the way we experience the world and our interaction with each other, and the relationship we have with data. Virtually every sector of life has benefited from advances in AI technologies, from military (where worldwide annual military spending on Robotics are on the rise), to the government (where AI is being used in hospitals, to reduce staff load and predict patients’ needs).
It has helped us remove the four Ds – dirty, dull, difficult, dangerous – from our daily works. Humans are not always the best at tedious and repetitive tasks, whereas machines do not get tired, neither do they complain.
Any machine with the capability of understanding human speech, self driving vehicles (drones and autopilot cars), competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as Chess and Go), intelligent routine in content delivery network or military simulations, can be classified as artificial intelligence.
Technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu and Apple, have made and are still in the process of making major moves into the advancement of AI. Currently, we can see their mighty hands on several AI technologies around us.
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Online Automated Personal Assistants
Apple’s Siri is the friendly voice-activated computer that we interact with on a daily basis. It helps find information, manages our calendar, gives directions and so on. Microsoft’s Cogito, helps with behavioural adaptation and improving the emotional intelligence of customer support workers, as it is used in millions of voice calls which are sent in, daily. Others such as Google Now and Amazon’s Alexa could help us scour the web, shop, schedule appointments, set alarms etc.
Self-driving and Parking Vehicles
Tech companies such as Nvidia, use AI to give cars the power to see, think, and learn, so that they can navigate a nearly infinite range of possible driving scenarios. This AI-powered technology is already in use in cars made by Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo and Tesla.
Smart Stores and Services
Whether we are trying to read our emails, get driving directions, get music or movie recommendations, AI is there to assist. Product recommendations can now be available in stores like Amazon and Jumia; music and movies recommendations in Spotify, Google Play and Netflix; Google Maps provides maps and directions as they can calculate traffic and construction in order to find the quickest route to your destination.
AI also improves Social Media as it makes it easier for users to locate and communicate with friends and associates. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others use AI to enhance user experience, give some recommendations and even remove inappropriate or racist content.
AI in Healthcare
Our health sector has largely benefited from the AI technology available now and more are still in the works. AI is playing an imperative role in empowering machines to diagnose, analyze and predict the various types of diseases, monitor patientsʼ health conditions and help scientists to explore new drug discoveries. AI-based systems are already helping to prevent, fight, and lessen the burden of disease. For instance, AI gave the late theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, a voice through a speech predictive system that helped him cope with a devastating neurological disease.
An AI program called Deep Patient, created by a group of researchers, was able to search through electronic health records of 700,000 patients, in order to identify completely new risk patterns for certain cancers, diabetes and mental disorders.
AI has taken surgery to a whole unprecedented level as an AI-powered robotic system was able to outperform human surgeons in a procedure on pigs.
As a pandemic (COVID-19) grips our world, AI has done a commendable job of increasing social distancing, thereby, limiting the spread of the disease. Robots are now in use by Amazon and Walmart for sorting, shipping, packing and hauling products in their warehouses, which in turn, reduces the number of workers that have to physically come to work.
AI in Finance and Economics
Banks and other financial institutions, no longer burden staff with tedious repetitive tasks as AI now rules the industry. AI has been employed to detect charges and claims, organize operations, invest in stocks and manage properties. Historically, in August 2001, robots beat humans in a simulated financial trading competition.
Financial crimes and fraud have also reduced with the help of AI, just as it has been doing in Cyberworld to prevent cyber attacks such as Denial of Service (DoS), Malware and others, on organizations and individuals. This in turn, minimizes large-scale hacking attacks of different types that harm firms and create billions of dollars in business damage. It helps in improving the efficiency of the production system, through predictive maintenance. Robots have transformed a large part of the manufacturing economy, thereby, letting humans offload cognitive labour to computers.
AI in Journalism
Many news companies are using AI and still experimenting on Robot journalism to reduce costs. Microsoft and Google are funding some automated news projects. Automated writing systems generate financial, sports and election coverages. Data mining systems, alert reporters to potential news stories, while newsbots offer new ways for audiences to explore information.
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Fears and Challenges
Since AI was founded as an academic discipline in 1955, it has experienced years of several waves of optimism followed by disappointment and the loss of funding, followed by new approaches, success and renewal of funding.
Compared with humans, existing AI lacks several features of human reasoning, empathy, and most notably, space, time, and physical interactions. Self-driving cars still collide with humans on the street!
As with the majority of the changes happening in our world, there will be positive and negative impacts as AI continues to shape the world we live in and the way we live. It is a well-known fact that AI is a disruptive technology, rebranding business, and bringing new approaches to decision making based on measurable outcomes. Everyone has their own opinions about the pros and cons of the tech.
According to data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), more than 1.7 million new industrial robots are expected to transform factories around the world by 2020. Estimates of the proportion of jobs likely to be automated by AI, vary wildly; which has raised the issue of potential mass unemployment as jobs like office support, customer interaction, care providers, builders, educators and so on, have almost been completely replaced by AI technology. In some service roles where someone is needed to offer a guideline or lesson, AI is being developed to be as real as humans to replace financial advisers, school teachers and fitness trainers.
Economic effects are just one part of the story. Several issues including the disturbing gender imbalance in the rapidly growing AI workforce, lethal autonomous weapons and threats to democratic decision making, still persist. It is also feared that at a point, machines will be more intelligent than humans, as artificial super intelligence would cause unthinkable changes in human civilization.
Advances in AI may come at great cost in job loss and disrupted lives, just as some experts have warned. On the other hand, it promises a world with rising human productivity and an all-round amazing quality of life. AI systems will take over life’s drudgery, generate enormous prosperity and opportunities for people, cure diseases in a way we have not seen before, and make us more efficient by eliminating human errors. These would be achievable, should AI be properly harnessed.
Realizing this potential will require solving the challenges inherent in ensuring a fair and equitable transition into an AI-driven future. This can be achieved by making sure that those at risk of being excluded, equally benefit from the imminent domination of AI.