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Myth busting – Artificial Intelligence

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Whether or not 2017 actually turns out to be the year artificial intelligence breaks into the mainstream remains to be seen, but what is clear is that there is the potential for controversy.

For years, AI has fuelled science fictions movies, whether this is the world being taken over by Arnie or an automated society where humans are made redundant, but it has led to some confusion as to what the technology is and the future holds. Only last month it was announced that IBM’s Watson was taking dozens of jobs away from humans in a single Japanese company, but does that mean we will all be down the job centre in the near future?

“The growing media coverage around AI and machine learning has created widespread anxiety that thousands of jobs will be replaced by machines,” said Martin Moran, SVP EMEA at InsideSales.com.

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence, ultimately, will always be controlled by humans. It was invented by humans, and all the tasks that robots carry out are dictated by us, so if we don’t teach robots to take over completely, they won’t.”

The promise of artificial excites some, but for thousands it could mean the end of a career. In some cases, the fear can be justified, autonomous vehicles and taxi drivers for instance, but this is still decades away. Other examples, for example white collar roles which involve repetitive, data heavy tasks, the anxiety is less vindicated.

“Of course some jobs will be modified to make way for artificial intelligence but never fully replaced,” said Moran. “Rather than stealing jobs, the technology that exists at present actually has the power to amplify human potential. Most jobs require a degree of confidence which you just can’t get from a machine, there will always need to be an element of human interaction.”

Many applications of AI are currently being built to enhance how effective we are at doing our day-to-day jobs. By taking away the time consuming, low-value tasks, employees can focus on activities which have a more significant impact on the businesses success. This is certainly the view of Sameet Gupte, CEO at Servion Global Solutions.

“Every new Technology makes us feel that we will become obsolete,” said Gupte. “But the reality is that every new technology enables us to do things more efficiently and enhance the overall experience. One good example of this is the advancements that AI has brought about in the customer care space.

“AI can be used to ‘learn’ from customer scenarios, and make ‘next best action’ decisions – for both the customer and for the customer service agent. These intuitive systems not only improve the customer service by giving greater context to problems, that can help them be resolved much faster but also enable the Agent to focus on quality queries and interactions with the customer, instead of the regular mundane ones.

“After all, how many of us want to keep saying and doing the same thing every hour, every day and every month! AI just makes it easier to automate those and focus on the exciting part of the job and at the same time provide enhanced customer experience.

“So despite the fact there is a fear that jobs will be lost to AI, in the long run it’s unlikely to cause a drastic loss of jobs, it will in fact create higher quality jobs in the same industries.”

The role of AI in the workplace is one which has been discussed numerous times, but one scenario which, despite being incredibly unlikely, keeps coming up is that of artificial intelligence rising up and enslaving the human race. Thanks to movies such as Terminator or The Matrix, there will always be numerous people who will predict the end of the world.

“The biggest myth we see with artificial intelligence is automatically equating it to something out of a science fiction novel,” Sean Owen, Director of Data Science at Cloudera. “An image of a rogue Siri dominating the world’s population by controlling all machinery or omnipotent robots deeming us humans inferior, seems to be the first thing that comes to mind when mulling the future of AI.”

While such fortunes are generally relegated to sci-fi conventions or the comments board of the Daily Mail, the perception can actually cause damage to the credibility of AI, as well as the work which the technology is currently doing.

“While those images are highly fictional, the real world benefits of machine intelligence are already greatly impacting businesses” said Owen. “AI can streamline business processes efficiently without putting a dent in an enterprise’s pockets. Businesses have already looked to software and services that can optimise cash movement, minimise tax and financing costs. In addition, third-party services can analyse customer sentiment on social media and learn customer preferences, or serve up product recommendations and target ads to the most receptive audience.

“However, due to the stigma associated with artificial intelligence, deploying and implementing AI and machine learning solutions may not be the smoothest of processes.”

Aside from hiding the benefits, it also hides the various different components underneath the larger artificial intelligence umbrella. AI is in fact a collective term for numerous different technologies such as machine learning or natural language processing or predictive analytics. AI is each component, as well as the overarching combination of all of them.

“Unfortunately, films such as the Matrix, Terminator and others mean that some of the best applications of AI, such as voice recognition, never get labelled as AI,” said Daniel Kroening, Professor for Computer Science at Oxford University, who is also founder of DiffBlue, a spin-out from Oxford University’s Verification and Machine Learning groups.

“AI will continue to expand its presence in our everyday lives, but because of this myth it will often slip under the radar using another moniker.”

“The most common myth about AI is that in twenty years we’ll have passed the singularity and will all be ruled by robots. This comes from the idea that if you give machines the ability to make decisions then they will naturally move on to become human-like and extend the scope of the area they want to make decisions about.

“In fact its humans that keep extending the realm in which we leave our decisions to machines, not the machines themselves. Who would have thought twenty years ago that millions of people would travel around the country being told at every junction which way to go by a machine? We will continue to give control of our lives over to machines more and more, but our slavery (if you want to call it that) will be voluntary, not imposed.”

So there you have it. Myths about AI could be damaging to credibility and rollout of the technology, but don’t forget, if the machines do actually take over, they won’t take control, we’ll give it to them.


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