All about you and AI

Companies are set to strut their AI-powered stuff at MWC 2018

At a certain point in time, zombies became somewhat of a craze; from TV shows and movies to video games, a good number were enjoying the virtual ‘threat’ to humanity.

In the real world, however, there’s a different ‘threat’ – as some put it – with which we can draw parallels to those at-times cute undead beings.

The rise of artificial intelligence has created an atmosphere that has polarised opinion, and some may perceive it to be just that – an apocalypse waiting to happen.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which starts today, companies are set to strut their AI-powered stuff, aching to prove to the world that it’s not as bad as it seems.

So for all the hype in the MWC, let’s try to forget our dear smartphones for now – and dive into something that’s as ‘real’ as those zombies are.

Less can become more

It’s a fact that AI can wipe out certain jobs – but it’s also a harder truth that it will also create not just new work, but industries as well. You just can’t let bots take over, right?

Think about it: machines, if they malfunction, can’t fix themselves (maybe in the future). If something goes wrong with its code or it needs updates, actual persons should well do that (ditto). And remember the chatbot in China that went rogue last year? Humans are the best qualified to rectify embarrassing situations like that (unlikely).

Growing pains, indeed. That’s exactly what Sandeep Chouhan, executive vice-president for technology and operations at Mashreq, stresses.

“Think of it like children; when they first arrive in the world, they are taught very basic tasks,” he says.

Ergo, “human workers [still] need to continuously monitor digital workers”.

More recently, in a release regarding digital transformation, he stresses the need for people to be ready for what’s up ahead.

“A well-equipped employee is more productive, saves time and serves customers swiftly – and that builds customer loyalty,” Chouhan points out.

For businesses, certain changes have to be made in order to keep it afloat.

Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Survey on February 22 shows that while a mere four per cent of chief information officers have deployed AI in their firms, a further 46 per cent have developed plans to do so.

There’s no need to panic when it comes to the danger of losing jobs, though. According to another recent Gartner report, AI will actually create more jobs than it would eliminate: the research firms says that by 2020, 2.3 million new jobs will be up for grabs, with ‘only’ 1.8 million scratched off.

“Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation and AI will likely follow this route,” Svetlana Sicular, research vice-president at Gartner, wrote.

The report, however, gave a bit of a warning: middle- and low-level positions are the most likely to be gone.

Good news: this transition would also create millions more new positions of highly-skilled, management and even entry-level and low-skilled variety – with AI seen to boost the productivity of many jobs.

“Unfortunately, most calamitous warnings of job losses confuse AI with automation – and that shadows the greatest AI benefit: AI augmentation, a combination of both human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other,” she adds.

The International Data Corporation, meanwhile, estimates that spending on AI and machine learning will grow from $12 billion last year to $57.6 billion by 2021, a 380 per cent leap.

At home – and everywhere else

At home, AI has somewhat crept its way into it – and you may haven’t even noticed it: ICYMI, smartphones that we hold so precious have digital assistants (Hey Siri, are you a threat to my job as well?). And don’t forget about those smart speakers as well (Alexa, we’re friends, right?).

To a certain extent, what we’ve seen in The Jetsons and Back to the Future II is actually here. They seemed so far-fetched during their heydays, which could have left a good few drooling about a future like those.

“We are seeing cognitive and AI technology and solutions weaving into an ever broader and wider array of applications and use cases,” David Schubmehl, research director of cognitive/artificial intelligence systems at the IDC, says.

The deeper meaning of that statement is this: AI-powered smart devices go further beyond more than convenience, aesthetics and bragging rights – it can help humans in a more critical way.

Aside from the typical smart temperature setting or fridges reminding you what you need to buy that tend to overshadow its real benefits, AI can be the backbone of technologies like, say, monitoring equipment for the elderly, or smart systems that’ll help people with disabilities get out of a sticky situation.

Special apps are also being developed for diagnostic and therapy services that will help recognise conditions such as depression or autism. For example, on February 21, Palo Alto-based Cognoa announced that it has received further US FDA approval for its machine-learning software aimed at autism.

Imagine if such apps can be connected to your devices at home, how it would benefit your loved ones.

Change can sometimes be scary. But if there’s a lesson for these times, it’s the fact that we have to keep up with the ultra-fast pace of technology. We don’t have to fear it like zombies.

source: Khaleej Times 

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