Artificial Intelligence: are you gearing up for the world’s last arms race?
By Dean Addison, Principal Consultant at Freethinking
What could be the last arms race has already begun (in case you missed it!)
It started quietly, humbly and no doubt with good intent but like most ideas in the realm of science fiction, good things may be used for bad purposes somewhere along the line.
The game changer? Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The darling of the post-war era of the 1950s and 60s, AI was swiftly relegated to the back row due to our lack of processing, networking and other capabilities at the time.
In recent years though, AI has re-emerged into the mainstream, with new generations of super-computers and decades of quiet development now promising systems that can replicate and beat many of our human capabilities.
Though we may be many years from these ‘bots’ truly surpassing our cognitive abilities, there are already things we can now offload to a 24x7x365 helper who works, learns and interacts within certain disciplines far better than we ever will.
Think about when last you had to figure out the fastest way somewhere through the traffic? Or needed to find an expert to settle an argument or a disputed fact? We already rely on a number of smart, algorithm-based apps to assist with things we aren’t good at and as we hurtle towards the future, we realise that it is unlikely to be anything but fair for everyone. Inequality will grow. The ‘haves’ will further break away from the ‘have nots’
From small beginnings come great things
In its purest form, AI promises to make us better, faster and hyper-productive. Though fairly simple at this point, those that can afford and access tools like Grammarly and Google Maps already have a slight edge on those who don’t.
Tools such as IBM’s Watson are able to sift through literal libraries of information in unstructured text and find insights, correlations and develop unique insights into data even the best human minds could not process. And these kinds of advanced capabilities will soon be available at a consumer-level.
Many are not even aware of how AI is becoming infused into the likes of online help bots, call centre support desks, equities trading and many other services. At the moment, it is a little camouflaged… but it is emerging quickly
Coming to a future near you
While everyone else is driving to work and spending the time getting frustrated in traffic, you work in your autonomous vehicle until you reach your first meeting. In fact, you can productively use all the other travel time during the day for other work. You haven’t ‘driven’ anything in years.
Your AI research assistant has spent the night researching your company’s data, current market, all available data sources you subscribe to, chatter, social content and your own generated data. By integrating into other decision engines, it has compiled insights, alerts, actions and notifications.
In fact, many of these have already been actioned on your behalf, issuing email instructions in plain English where the interface is Human (using your social interaction AI to ensure it reads like you wrote it).
Other bots continually balance your accounts, issue notices to debtors in danger of going over their terms (based on yet another AI algorithm) , manages credit, reconciles and pays creditors and manages your investments. They even manage your tax-efficient financial strategies.
Your social media, email, business media and any other networking have been dealt by another AI assistant, who is steadily working you up the connection chain toward that invite to an industry visionary you want to meet. While managing your social profile, connections, invites and if you’re in a research field, submitting proposals to conventions you aspire to talk at.
The utopian promise for mankind is true freedom: to fully explore the realm of human experience, art, beauty, poetry and any other thing that takes our fancy
This vision for the future is just the beginning. These suites of AI assistants promise to deliver us into a utopian future where, having solved the problems of resource constraint and applied machine-learning to rapidly scale our productivity, we become free to experience life more fully, to express our most creative or spiritual selves.
The utopian promise for mankind is true freedom: to fully explore the realm of human experience, art, beauty, poetry and any other thing that takes our fancy. Free to go and do as we please, no longer tied to the earn a living grindstone. The production and meeting of needs provided by an automated class of robots and AI that frees us up to focus on our passions.
But, here’s the rub: it is likely not to be like that.
Winner takes all
Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Samsung, IBM and many other are pouring big money into this area. To the winner go the spoils. Algorithmic trading has already changed stock exchanges the world over and already the arms race to get better, faster and closer to the trades is happening. Trading rooms are full of the brightest mathematical minds not traders…
None of these corporates are likely to hand over their game-changing AI to the world to ensure free play for all.
For example, Santander is investing AI – Personetics – a technology which helps automate customer service; and Gridspace which is building sophisticated natural language processing tools.
An AI machine for the first time beat humans in a poker tournament last month, the last castle that humans as far as beating computers at a game! Poker is an environment with imperfect data and a rule set that includes the need to read bluffs and bluff to win… and we didn’t stand a chance
Businesses planning on being around should be now considering how and where to apply AI. It’s no longer a maybe, it’s just when. It’s no longer science-fiction. The European Union has already mooted robot tax – levied on the value that AI delivers to organisations, which could be funnelled towards retraining people replaced by machines.
And knowledge workers are certainly not insulated from the advances of AI. We’ll all have to individually invest, in ourselves and in the best tech, to stay ahead.
We’re like 3 year olds at an adult’s party – at risk of being irrelevant and sidelined with some technological nanny, to keep us out of everyone’s hair as they get on with transforming our very existence.
Just like the forthcoming divide between the ’haves’ and the ‘have nots’ at an individual level, businesses are prone to have exactly the same dynamic. If you are waiting for someone to build AI into some suite of enterprise applications, then the differentiation, the grand “sorting-out” process, will have already happened. You will already be too late.
We’re seeing a similar, though softer, differentiation happening today – through Big Data. Currently, the winners are those putting in the time and money to develop a competitive edge. Once it’s mainstream, it’s a keep up-play not a build-on or break-out play.
The same principle will apply to the next wave, that of AI.