What differentiates us from machines is not our ability to think, but our ability to reason and to make cross connections between two unrelated phenomenons. There is no doubt that machines have been getting smarter and now, there are concerns that they may take over work from humans. So, while Percy Spencer, inventor of the microwave, could figure out that micro waves from an active radar could be used for heating food, a machine would have just dismissed the accident as a black swan event. Although, there is increasing automation—especially for jobs that entail repetitive tasks, for instance, self-driving cars—there is still time before artificial evolution allows machines to turn our lives into a sci-fi movie gone horribly wrong. in that context, we need to address the question whether these are really as intelligent as their human masters.
In order to delve into that question, one needs to understand artificial intelligence and its evolution.
Artificial intelligence is a blanket term that is increasingly being used for all types of machine learning, computer vision and robotics. While innovation has led to a big-bang expansion in the field, the processes of developing or using AI are much the same. It can be done by using various statistical input-output analysis like bayesian networks.
Neural networks is one of the types used in machine learning where there are multiple layers which work for input, output and storage of data. And when a complex net of these networks is interconnected it paves the way for deep learning or much more advanced AI. While machine learning is something that a phone or app can also do—the new Google messaging app Allo, can learn from your responses and over time suggest smart replies or offer suggestions based on your preferences—there are much more complex tasks that machines are capable of these days. Most can fool you into thinking they are human, there are chatbots that have beaten the Turing test time and again, IBM’s Watson which works on cognitive AI—computing focused on reasoning that can emulate human reasoning—even beat players at the game of Jeopardy in 2011, but the scope is not limited to chatting and winning games. So, can machines —cognitive or deep learning— beat humans to work tasks? If you were to ask school students about what they wish to be, a majority would reply a doctor, lawyer or an engineer, while these jobs have been the preferred options for decades now, let’s see if they will be disrupted in the coming years.
Medical field was quick to use robotics to perform certain complex surgeries, but reliance on AI has been limited. While there may not be robo-doctors, AI programmes like Watson Oncology are increasingly being used to counter some of the diseases. Recently, Microsoft announced launch of AI that can be used to create programmable biological cells which would target cancer like a computer code by reprogramming themselves as cancer cells mutate.
Moreover, some believe that AI may trump doctors if not in surgeries but in medical diagnoses and treatment. While the field will certainly require human touch, with internet of things devices becoming a norm—your phone tracks your heart rate and other activity—machines can certainly trump humans.
This is one field where artificial intelligence is causing a disruption. While the adoption has been low, companies are soon turning to AI legal assistants that can help lawyers sift through data piles and search for important cases. Ross, IBM’s AI system and Luminance are being used for increasing the efficiency of contract reviews or due diligence. With a home made AI lawyer chatbot helping users contest party tickets in the UK and the US, there is a real scope of AI in this field. AI may not eliminate the need of lawyers, but it can certainly alter their demand given that mundane work can be done by AIs, with advocates being left to do complex tasks.
It may not be so much of a Frankenstein moment for engineers, but with machines writing codes better than humans, and doing better damage assessment for structures. Some jobs in the engineering field may also go as the smart gets smarter. They can always find work in creating more advanced AI systems. With yet many more devices to be connected with the internet of things, engineers and IT professionals can certainly find some solace in their jobs.
These are not the only fields that will get disrupted. Growing AI use is expected to have a major impact on banking, agriculture and manufacturing. AI is getting smarter and will surely take away low level jobs—a Forrester study indicates that robots will eliminate 6% of all jobs in the US by 2021 . While machines may not be as intelligent as humans they would certainly make a dent in the human workforce, but that is no reason to turn Luddites. The technology may take away a few jobs, it will create more in the process to accommodate a few if not all. As for humans if technology is getting smart, it is only fair that we get smarter along with it. Though we may lose a few games, we will certainly not lose the race. Hopefully, not in the near future.