Innovation drives forward change and adaptation, facilitating new discoveries and pushing the limits of technological capability ever forward. These changes are primarily hooked on making systems smarter, enabling learning that produces cheaper, faster or more efficient outcomes.
Currently, a key area of technology is developing machine cognition through Artificial Intelligence, or AI. It is likely to be one of the most influential developments of the coming century, taking technology to a level previously unthinkable. AI is already widely used, often in the background of our daily lives. It is in the offices of hospitals where it is used to help doctors make accurate diagnoses, it is used to fly planes, by online retailers like Amazon who send us recommendations based on previous purchases and in professional services offices where it is used to sift through legal evidence, or in video games where the player competes with AI. However, whilst it will inevitably make our lives easier, AI is also likely to have a social effect on how we interact as a human community.
AI has immense potential across a wide spectrum of industries and applications, but it is only by understanding the opportunity it presents that we can strive to achieve such heights. It is vital that we understand how to steer the trend of AI development to ensure its capability is applied in the most productive way. Key to this, is developing and widening our definition of intelligence. Intelligence takes many forms, in humans and animals, we measure intelligence in IQ, but there are many other aspects at work when it comes to an individual, or species’ intelligence. For example, humans rely on deductive reasoning, emotional intelligence, special intelligence and memory to form an overall intelligence, and many of these forms of intelligence have been measured in animal species too.
We are able to control how smart machines become depending on what we need them to do. There is a choice to make the machine smarter than humans in some respects, but where a simple task is conducted, intelligence in those machines does not need to be high. For example, GPS navigation software is more intelligent than most humans in spatial navigation and google has much longer long-term memory than we do, this is because their reason for being dictates it.
Where the invention of energy and power helped us to build cities and infrastructure, to revolutionise manufacturing and distribute energy across large areas, technology and digitalisation has now enabled us to make these activities ‘smart’, developing the driverless car, smart cities, smart transport, new forms of manufacturing processes and smart energy. This is all possible due to embedded ‘AI’ machines, or robots.
When we then place several elements of AI technology into a product, such as a car for example, it will run each of these ‘intelligent’ processes together to deliver the most effective service for the driver. This does not mean, however, that it is driving as a human would. A car would not have the other levels of thinking that a human has when driving, such as distraction, it is simply completing its task. The GPS navigation system and smart, ‘handsfree’ parking support the driver to make his experience as efficient as possible, removing tasks that can be better done by technology. And this is where AI is headed. It is the support that humans need to work alongside them to solve large problems, helping us think differently and shaping the world in a new way as a result.
AI robots are, and will certainly in the future, be capable of doing many of the tasks we currently do, but they are also going to create a ream of new tasks that will ultimately end up redefining jobs. As Kevin Kelly, Technology Visionary stated in 2017, discussing the potential of AI robots; ‘They’re going to produce even more jobs than they take away, but it’s important that a lot of the tasks we’re going to give them are tasks that can be defined in terms of efficiency or productivity. Productivity is for robots.”
Essentially, AI will redefine our relationship with technology. Machines are not going to replace human thinking, but they are going to support us in tasks to help achieve greater efficiency and achievement than we can achieve alone. For example, medical diagnosis will be far more efficient when a doctor uses AI technology to analyse a patient’s symptoms and test results. Design will be generative using AI to deliver efficient design solutions based on the objectives assigned by a human architect. Transport will be safer when AI technology helps support the driver of all forms of transport manoeuvre their vehicle in the sky, seas, roads and railroads.
There is no doubt that we are at the beginning of the digital revolution, where the potential of the internet and connectivity is only just being discovered. There will be AI products invented in the next 20 years that every human will rely on 25 years from now. There will be jobs created that we haven’t even begun to think about yet and our lives and the jobs we do will change immeasurably supported by technological advancements that are in their very infancy at present.
Key to the success and growth of this revolution is our openness to working alongside technology, embracing its potential and not fearing tis consequences. We create these machines and we have the ability to control their growth and capability. We are in control of our technological destiny and embracing its potential is the first step forward.