Artificial intelligence: A force for good?

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Whenever there’s a new advance in artificial intelligence (AI), it seems that traditional and social media outlets quickly light up with dystopian scenarios in which sentient robots are poised to take over the human world. Science-fiction imaginings about machines that have the ability to think and act persist even as leading AI researchers seek to tamp down the hype. What is clear is that AI will increasingly influence our lives in ways that are sometimes obvious, but often less so. Here are three glimpses of how AI is shaping enterprises and communities.

  1. AI Doesn’t Mean “Evil Robots.”

Andrew Ng, who founded the Google Brain Deep Learning Project, directs us away from dramatic claims about AI and toward the most mundane workplace activities we can think of. These “mental tasks” that human beings can successfully complete with “less than one second of thought” are currently the functions most appropriate for organizations to hand off to intelligent agents. Typical routines involve using an Input A, such as a photograph, to generate a Response B, such as a tag for a facial image. At least for now, the art and science of AI is mostly about fundamentals like designing the right A-to-B process, supporting it with good data, and being relentless about continuous improvement.

  1. Automation Will Eliminate Some Jobs and Create Others.

Based on recent estimates, AI will replace 16 percent of human-performed jobs in the United States by 2020 and 30 percent of those jobs in the UK by 2030. Sophisticated chatbots that can credibly impersonate contact-center staff now deliver customer service in many industries and some HR departments. While AI trends may affect customer-service workers most, white-collar professionals aren’t immune. In law offices, intelligent agents are already comparing and assessing simple contracts, and accounting firms are using them to perform statistical analyses with fewer errors. Oxford University’s landmark 2013 study on the future of employment also lists library technicians, cargo agents, and telemarketers among many professions especially susceptible to replacement via automation.

As these human jobs disappear, enterprises and governments will need to work together to create new employment opportunities for citizens who lose their livelihoods to machines. AI itself offers opportunities for skilled work, whether the workers are data scientists or sales professionals. And analyst firm IDC forecasts that AI related just to customer relationship management will help create approximately 2 million new jobs from 2017 to 2021 while generating an additional $1.1 trillion in global business revenue.

  1. Machine Learning Will Catalyze Human Progress.

Intelligent agents have clear potential to assist NGOs, governments, and others in addressing global humanitarian challenges. Although the United Nations cautions that automation may exacerbate income equality, it emphasizes that AI will be essential for progress toward achieving its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. For example, smart grids that incorporate machine learning can make energy generation more efficient and artificially intelligent transportation systems can use data insights to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce fuel waste.

In addition, healthcare enterprises can harness predictive analytics to identify patients at most risk of serious diseases like diabetes, and they can automate scans of chest x-rays to detect tuberculosis. AI can also promote sustainable business operations, with Google, for example, deploying DeepMind machine learning to cut its data center energy use by 15 percent.

As businesses look to AI for competitive advantage and good corporate citizenship, they may find it worthwhile to focus first on basic questions like these:

  • How will we manage to find, hire, and retain the highly specialized talent we’ll need to deliver AI projects, especially the most ambitious ones?
  • What insights will enable us to design our own simple but smart A-to-B AI formulas that fit with our business and generate ROI?
  • For our employees, will AI tools like virtual business assistants make the workplace more efficient and productive or more stressful and distracting?
  • What security and other measures do we need to put in place to protect the AI we create and deter others from copying it?
  • And what new learning and development programs will we need to build in order to retrain workers who are displaced by AI within our enterprise or even outside of it?

These are the kinds of questions that successful businesses already know how to analyze and answer, whether robots are involved in the process or not. At DXC, we look forward to exploring the reality of AI with our clients, employees, and partners as we help discover how to make intelligent agents work best for essential human purposes.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this article about ‘Artificial intelligence: A force for good?’

    This is a very informative discussion.

    Like

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  1. […] debate continues to arise in whether AI will foster unemployment and socio economic disruption, or help humanity progress, explore, and learn with these technological […]

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