By Nitin Kumar, Fellow Programme Student, Management Information System Group, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
The Artificial Intelligence (AI) landscape has been evolving for the past couple of decades now. Today, we are at the tipping point of irreversible change which is coming to our lives due to the development of AI and ML. To put it simply in the words of Prof. Andrew Ng, ‘AI is the new electricity’.
Just as electricity changed all aspects of our lives to the point that today we can’t even imagine our day-to-day activities without it, AI will produce a similar transformation in the next decade or so. We increasingly rely on algorithms to make decisions for us. Computers are dramatically becoming lighter, thinner and smaller in size. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, I am most excited to see the changes AI brings to the following areas.
Gone are the days when we used to worry about the unpredictability of public transport. Now, with the help of Uber/Ola, it’s just a tap away. Cheaper, faster and most importantly predictable and convenient. With the help of algorithms, these transport companies have brought better service at very competitive prices to the public (Uber pool or Ola share is the perfect example of how technology is improving the inefficiencies in our daily lives).
Google, Tesla and other giants are at the cusp of bringing out the self-driving cars for general public. As I write, Google is running its early riders program in Phoenix city, USA offering free rides to public in their self-driving car. The AI has been perfected to the extent that soon most of the transport (be it goods or public) will run on algorithms.
Speech & Language
The translation and voice recognition algorithms has breached the accuracy threshold of 95% where we were stuck for quite some time (around 4 years back Google claimed to achieve an accuracy of over 98%). Why do these numbers matter? Because a 95% accurate voice recognition system irritates the user while the 99% accurate system pleasantly surprises. With increasing adoption, as more data becomes available, the error rate are further going to drop as the system gets perfected.
Today more than 10% of the search queries are hitting Google via voice and this share is increasing day by day. The google translate app not only can translate 27 languages instantly, but it also interprets street signs, instruction manuals and other texts perfectly. The Google Pixel Buds earphone translates conversation in real time. Google home has now the ability to take voice commands in Hindi too.
Work and Jobs
This is one area where upcoming changes are creating uncertainties for governments and the general public. With the rise of AI, many jobs will be performed by machines/algorithms. Amazon is testing drones to deliver couriers. Grammarly is taking away the job of proofreaders.
The customer care first line of responses are rapidly getting replaced by bots (Chat as well as voice). Many of the low-end jobs (taxi and truck drivers, assistants will be replaced by AI in the next 10 years. Researchers have even trained the AI to write sonnets like Shakespeare. AI’s sonnets are so perfect that the public couldn’t even tell the difference between which was written originally by Shakespeare.
The huge amount of data which we leave behind with e-commerce sites (like Amazon and Flipkart) when we shop with them, make their AI-enabled system to accurately predict the items we will be next interested in. Amazon is testing its experience store (Amazon Go) where you visit the store, AI authenticates you via face recognition, and you pick the items as you go and get billed automatically via your Amazon account.
Health and Medicine
Al is amazingly fast and accurate when it comes to prediction based on past data. Most of the AI which are on popular use today rely on only one aspect of it, namely, supervised learning. Based on the previous data and output, given the new data, how accurately it can predict the output. It’s shocking just how many deaths and errors are being made in the medical field just due to data errors and wrong detection.
AI will improve it significantly and will be used to save many lives. Though robots were being used in operation theatre since years now, it’s now performing much more complex tasks than ever before. With AI powered robot surgeons, the risk associated with all kind of surgeries will get reduced remarkably due to the precision and efficiency it brings.
Overall, the overarching goal of AI should be directed towards creating a better future for mankind. This can only happen if the government and society become ready for the upcoming future which businesses are creating, with the help of AI. All the benefits of autonomous network of drones or pervasive nature of AI systems can be turned against the society due to lack of awareness, understanding and proper regulatory environment.
The same data which we leave behind with Google, Microsoft or Amazon to serve us accurately in a personalized and timely way, can be used to understand our personality and manipulate our behaviour. The future will be bright and beautiful for all of us, if we start discussing the implications of it and crafting the right environment for AI to serve us.