This is our second article on Artificial Intelligence, you can find the first one here. Today the Humanity is obsessed with the idea of artificial intelligence - the concept that the machines can interact, respond and think for themselves as if they were truly alive like the humans. With the passing of each year, the possibility of an “intelligent technology” future becomes more and more of a reality - as algorithms and machine learning keeps on developing at a very fast rate. As per the experts, machines will soon be capable of replacing a variety of jobs – starting from writing bestsellers, to composing the best songs and even performing an open-heart surgery.
But, the biggest question is: how long until that point and how did we get to here?
The Origins of Artificial Intelligence
It’s always essential to know the past, while attempting to chart the future. The seeds of modern AI were sown by the philosophers who attempted to describe the process of human thinking as the mechanical manipulation of symbols. This work culminated in the invention of the programmable digital computer in the 1940s, a machine based on the abstract essence of mathematical reasoning. This device and the ideas behind it inspired a handful of scientists to begin the discussions on the possibility of building an electronic brain.
Although, the idea of “artificial intelligence” had been speculated about in fiction for centuries, but it was not until in 1950, when Alan Turing found the concept of AI which became more than a fantasy. He was famous as the man behind the Enigma code breaking machine during the Second World War, the English computer scientist and mathematician spent his time post-war devising the Turing Test. Basic but effective in nature, the test involves seeing if artificial intelligence can hold a realistic conversation with a human being, thereby convincing them they are also human.
Forming the background to AI measurements ever since its introduction in Turing’s paper, it was only in 2014 that a Russian-designed chatbot programme, Eugene, was able to successfully process 33% of human judges. Turing’s original test suggested that over 30% was a pass - but clearly there is plenty of room for improvement in the future.
The Evolution of ArtificiaI Intelligence
Despite some base model machines showing promise, from the “first robotic person” Shakey the Robot in 1966, to anthropomorphic androids WABOT-1 and WABOT-2 from Waseda University - the field of AI started to plateau in the 1980’s. It wasn’t until Rodney Brooks in 1990 that the idea of computer intelligence would be revitalised. In his seminal 1990 paper, “Elephants Don’t Play Chess”, Brooks suggested that the robotics field had been approaching the idea of artificial intelligence all wrong. Instead of creating machines that could carry out ever-more advanced singular “top-down” tasks - from playing the piano to calculating maths problems - AI should be a machine-based relationship with the world around it, or “bottom-up”.
It might sound obvious to us now, thanks to a lifetime rooted in the advances of AI - but back in the early 90s, the suggestion that artificial intelligence should be reactive to its surroundings was revolutionary.
In the last few years, AI has evolved into a powerful tool which enables machines to think and act like humans. It has garnered focus from the tech companies around the world and considered as the next significant technological shift after the evolution in mobile and cloud platforms. Some even call it the fourth industrial revolution. Forbes states, “By 2020, businesses that use AI and related technologies like machine learning and deep learning to uncover new business insights will take away $1.2 trillion each year from the competitors which don’t employ these technologies.”
Is the AI Job Market a threat to future work?
One of the biggest advances for artificial intelligence is the ability to be intuitive in planning and responding to tasks. Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in this regard came in 2016 when AlphaGo, a custom program developed by Google's DeepMind AI unit, beat the world’s best “Go” player.The historical Chinese board game had long been seen as one of AI's greatest challenges, the sheer variety of possible moves demanding players evaluate and react in countless different ways to each turn. That a program was finally able to challenge this level of “humanity” was a real breakthrough, even more than IBM’s Deep Blue over chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1996.
As a result of this leap forward in intelligence, experts from across the world now predict that we will see an AI program, which will be able to win the World Series of Poker in just two short years. Not only that, the same reactive technology is currently being investigated by the banking sector - with Natwest’s "Cora" chatbot in particular tipped to replace all telephone banking by 2022.
Are the other job sectors too under threat due to the advancement of artificial intelligence? Well, a recent research from the survey company Gartner suggests that 85% of the customer interactions in retail will be AI-managed by 2021. The other 15%, mainly the human sales process, will take a bit longer - with 2031 the closest estimate for full replacement.
As automation has crept into the modern society slowly, it can be extremely difficult to predict correctly how the job market will evolve as it gets ever more advanced. The biggest challenge will be ensuring that “artificial intelligence” does not lead to a mass wipeout of various job sectors. This will certainly require new legislations to be passed, as well as a rethink of the employment market overall. May be typical human work weeks might get reduced from 5 or 6 days to 4 days.
Many predict that learning new skills early will be crucial for any affected sector - which seems to be many in numbers. In short, the only way to beat the machines is to join them - or at the very least know how to use them. We have to always keep in mind that the lack of emotional intelligence within AI gives humans the edge over robots. In order to maintain the edge, we must ensure that our skill set remains up to date if we have to compete with the robots going forward.”