2017 is being hailed as the year of AI and machine learning. The year when cognition and interaction will rule the roost. Everything from your mobile phone to your TV will have AI in it. AI will be the gate opener that heralds the arrival of IoT into our lives. Should you worry? Is AI going to take you job this year?
Are we really going to see these new created artificially learning and smart machines usurp our jobs? Are we going to see the birth of Skynet? Will these systems become self-aware and make us redundant? We can safely answer all these questions in the negative for now. The reason for that is the simple fact that although AI is here, it is yet to arrive! Confused? Let me explain
AI is now getting baked into everything. The ability of machines to learn is helping us immensely in making our processes smoother and less prone to fatigue or human error. This is a big boon when there are situations that need real-time decisions that are data driven. The processes need to remove bias and favor data driven decisions. This is where AI is filling the gap. The applications are mind-boggling and many. Areas like Healthcare, Aircraft maintenance and even City Planning have seen major benefits from the percolation of AI. But we need to look closer to get a better and fuller picture.
While we acknowledge that AI is here, we need to understand that AI is at best an enabler in the process of making decisions and making the process flow smoother, wherever it is being used now, it compliments the human effort and is not a replacement for it. For example, IBM Watson helps doctors analyze and diagnose cancer and heart conditions, but it does not and will not become the end-all and be-all of the process. The process owners are still the human experts and they take the decisions. The analysis and data mining is now flawless thanks to AI.
Coming to more commonplace applications, HR is one area where AI is making huge strides in helping corporations identify, test, evaluate, hire and then engage candidates. But the analysis and support needs human hand holding. There needs to be a human telling the algorithm what to learn and where to learn from. There needs to be a corpus of human accumulated data and data sources that the AI can used to arrive at analytic conclusions. It is also worth noting that extrapolation leading to decision making is still in human hands. Where there was a calculator or a notepad helping us, we now have an AI enabled system doing that for us. This is but a natural evolution of tools and nothing more than that.
To see the current state of understanding or cognition that AI has achieved, all one has to do is have interactions with the smartphone assistants or chat bots. You will see very clearly that while there are primary abilities to read or listen and process natural language, context, flow and interconnecting logic are still at a very nascent state. So if the question is whether a sentient and cognitive AI is going to take your job this year, the answer is an emphatic no. It is going to be quite a while before that even becomes a quaintly remote possibility. Yes there are smart monitors that play content based on who is sitting in front of it, yes there are robots that can have conversations with humans for hours together, there are even apps that can tell you if your child has a developmental issue, but no, they are not replacing us anytime soon. What do you think?