An Artificial Intelligence robot interview on UK television last week got us thinking about how deeply AI is already embedded in our lives, and what this means for individuals and businesses. The robot in question – “Sophia” , demonstrated the levels of capability, intelligence and promise that AI offers. Good Morning Britain viewers were astonished by the lifelike quality of Sophia, the robot, and the hosts were dumbfounded by ‘her’ impressive ability to use sarcasm as well as eloquence throughout the discussion. See the interview here:
The slick application of “human” nuances in Sophia’s responses are actually not so far removed from our everyday use of Siri on our mobile phones (due to get an upgrade in September to make her responses more naturalistic and human), and Google home. AI is integrated in many of our daily activities – the real surprise, perhaps, is that many of us use it without necessarily realising it. From autonomous cars, to AI’s that trade the stock market, more and more of our decisions are made or influenced by AI. Type ‘AI’ into Google, and the top results are an abundance of articles and sites relating to the ways in which AI can improve our daily lifestyle, enhance convenience, reduce economic inequality, transform the pharmaceutical industry… The list is endless and the potential is mammoth. This is becoming an increasingly controversial topic, with many questioning the security and practicality of increasingly including AI in our daily lives. Whether considering this from a personal, ethical or business perspective, there are a number of genuine concerns as well as enthusiastically awaited potentials in this field.
The Impact of AI on Individuals
AI impacts our personal and individual lives in many ways. From boosting our communication capabilities through to helping us run our homes, AI is integrated into many of our activities without us knowing it.
There are other ways in which AI infiltrates our lives and this is clearly apparent with the evolution of our workplaces. The Bank of England recently suggested that the rise of the robot will put as many as 15 million UK jobs at risk but that is not to suggest that AI will leave the human workforce redundant. Instead, the jobs that we carry out will adapt to suit an encompassing environment. This means that we, as human workers, will benefit from more creative, advanced and intellectual positions, freeing our less demanding practices to be replaced by robots.
Adopting AI into our lives further may come with areas of concern – will the robots take over? Will there be higher unemployment rates? Can a robot really work as efficiently as the human mind? In a recent Telegraph article, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, professors from the MIT Sloan School of Management in Massachusetts, state that they “believe the biggest barrier to using technology to generate higher productivity and bigger profits is not the limits of robots, but the hubris of humans”.
Rest assured that no balanced mind wants to afford robots the power to take over the universe and such visions are only realistic in a sci-fi world. However, there are instances when robots may be better placed to make decisions than humans. Whether this be the use of algorithms to judge potential voting numbers, race car design or architectural development, there are instances when robots are able to intricately overcome problems more effectively than humans, though enthusiasm should be encouraged for this as humans are required to fine tune and adapt the AI results in order to apply them in the real world. This is the ‘humans in the loop’ argument.
The Impact of AI on Businesses
Businesses in all industries are impacted by AI to some degree. Back to Brynjolfsson and McAfee who note that “digital creativity is more than mimicry and incrementalism”, leaving them with hope that “computers can and will…come up with novel solutions that never would occur to people”. The efficiencies that are promoted by technological advancements throughout business mean that staff are freed up to concentrate on more demanding matters, creativity is developed in the human workforce as automation is introduced in other areas and decision making is enhanced thanks to a robotic capability to consider intricacies not always obvious to a human employee.
Jon Andrews,PwC’s head of technology and investment outlined the barriers to AI infiltration throughout business that he has come across. He says: “We’re still at a point in time when the bar that AI is expected to hurdle is 100pc accuracy, when actually it just needs to be better than humans, because fundamentally that’s when there is a business case for it.”
The Philosophical and Ethical Impact of AI
In a February blog we considered, in greater depth, the ethical and moral duty of care that we must have when introducing AI to a greater extent. We highlighted that “Ethically, we must also be aware of the roles that we ask an AI to complete and the potential bias that they may adopt in their design and manufacture processes. For example, if we come to rely on an AI to choose and administer our medication, how can we be certain that their choices are independent of bias and are not linked to economic gains for specific manufacturers? Should an AI make a mistake in their choice, can they be held responsible for their error? If not, is the recipient to blame or the designer or engineer? Where will ethical responsibility lie when we advance AI so swiftly that computers carry out potentially lifesaving tasks without human overviews or control?”
We have a duty to embrace the efficiency and freedoms that AI infiltration into daily activities brings but never whilst compromising our moral obligation to safety and respect for human life. The potential that technology holds for making decisions on our behalf is fantastic and whether we utilise this for business design, social connections or even through to personal care and treatment, we must always do so with ethical considerations and moral compassion.
“AI” in its loosest definition is part of our everyday life, and that’s a good thing. Often we use AI without recognising it and we do so in a safe and efficient way. Some of the biggest tech businesses in the world are enthusiastically and vocally backing AI, making it a central part of their strategies and aiming for greater inclusion in future plans. On the whole, we are still a long way off truely “Artificial Intelligence”, with researchers Gartner suggesting that we’re at least 10 years away from Smart Robots and properly autonomous cars, but this time allows us greater opportunity to strengthen the ways in which we marry tech and human interaction whilst limiting the concerns of this marriage.
The benefits of AI inclusion in our everyday lives are clear and we should embrace AI. There will always be a need for human inclusion, the robots won’t take over and in fact, AI serves to bolster human capabilities and encourage us to develop our own skills to enhance our superiority and increase efficiency in all areas. Many industries will be completely transformed by AI – the motor industry is one which is readying itself for a seismic shift to autonomous cars, whilst architecture benefits from intricate considerations and safety awareness that is not readily mirrored by the human mind.
With all this brings philosophical questions about the responsibility of AI. Currently AI is just developer code, but in about 10-15 years the intelligence will be truly artificial and that raises fundamental questions and concerns about ethics, responsibility, and the primacy of humans in decision making. To combat worries in our moral duties, we should understand the potential of AI, embrace its qualities and not fall foul to imagined vulnerabilities. Through maintaining confidence in our own abilities, we are better placed to harness and direct those of AI.