AI Is Coming to a World Near You
Yeah, this isn't new. I am tired of it too. Automation has been at the top of everybody's list for a long time. But that is because the impact is almost impossible to overstate.
Think of cars.
But automated cars do not an economy make. The promise and threat of automation are its power to impact us across the board. Combined with increased learning capabilities, we will see AI move into increasingly complex areas.
Manufacturing is the first place to look to understand what this means: Since 1984 production in the US has doubled, but the number of jobs has declined by a third. Today, new factories are machines rather than factories, with connected parts all operating in sync. Tomorrow the machines will be making more of the decisions...
Many of us understand factory automation, but what we miss is that even as jobs have decreased, the biggest shortage in the American economy is in workers.
But the true impact of AI goes well beyond manufacturing, think ethics.
AI is now moving into judging human actions. University College London computer scientists created an AI method that predicted accurately 79% of the outcomes of the European Court of Human rights.
I'd argue that this isn't very good, but it is a first step - will we see our judiciary eventually turned over to "unbiased" AI?
In fact this is happening today. Large organizations, such as Goldman Sachs, are automating regulatory compliance. These systems may not be precisely policing ethics, but it is very close and "AI as ethics police" can't be far behind.
It isn't a stretch to think of the "ethics AI" at a corporation tying into the "ethics AI" at the regulator and those algorithms deciding what is right and what is wrong.
Blend this with the idea of AI invading our privacy. The home invasion is also nothing new, as we outfit our houses with Amazon Echo's and Google homes. We increasingly interact with automated systems and are subject to broad, automatically generated, profiles that are increasingly parsed by AI systems.
AI is probabilistically very good... but if a system has 95% success rate it has a 5% failure rate - multiply that by the hundreds of interactions we have every day, and there will be a lot of opportunity for false positives and incorrect profiles that will impact our lives every day.
So the AI challenge is less about the AI technology, which we will all have to adapt and use, and more about our ability to manage the societal and economic shifts that AI implies.
What does this mean for you?
There are risks, and we will need to learn to deal with them. We will need to work more efficiently with probabilistic systems and develop human filters for everything from ads to news. Everything is changing.
Any job, any function, any business can be reinvented through AI and automation tomorrow. In your work you should be looking at how you can use available technology to automate parts of what you do and move your work to higher intellectual tasks.
If you aren't doing this others will.
Also look for competition in unexpected places, airlines will feel the pain of automated cars for example, so from where will unexpected competition come?
But, don't ignore the opportunities. Managing the technology and developing the next generation technology is a tremendous opportunity. But you can also reinvent business models, innovate products and take advantage of the gaps as the economy shifts. There will be many "blue ocean" opportunities.
The big uncertainties are:
How quickly AI change the economy.
How the economy and incumbents will react. We can embrace and adjust or fight and who knows what happens.
How will society change to incorporate new ways of working?
The extent to which AI will take over intellectual activities such as planning and future thinking.
How the vast amounts of new information will be used?
How will this impact your business?
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