The idea of artificial intelligence for many people today conjures up images of the Terminator and the dystopian cybernetic revolt. Although that fantasy isn’t coming true anytime soon, for now, AI has other far-reaching consequences that impact our societies in ways we cannot fully predict.
Going by its popularity and a wide range of applications today, it’s easy to think that AI is a recent development in computer science – It is not. The idea of AI goes back to about 100 years where it was mostly a theme of science fiction novels. In 1956, at the Dartmouth conference- where the first workshop was held on the subject, Stanford researcher John McCarthy coined the term Artificial Intelligence.
The purpose behind AI is to build machines that are capable of emulating behaviours associated with human-like intelligence such as thinking, learning, planning, problem-solving, reasoning, perception and, to a certain extent, creativity and social intelligence. In everyday life, AI is behind many things such as the search engine on peoples’ desktop that optimises search results based on their previous activity, filters on incoming emails that divert spam from the inbox or the navigation app on phones which tell the best route to take to a destination. Artificial intelligence has made technology friendlier and more accessible at the consumer level.
So, what are the major areas where we can expect to see the impact of AI?
Transportation has a tremendous scope of improvements to be made in the way we travel and move goods and services around. AI is not only helping build smart ways to manage traffic on the roads but also smart vehicles that ensure safety in transportation. As an example, it was seen in a viral video from 2016 where the Tesla Autopilot predicts a potential highway collision between two cars travelling ahead. The Autopilot alerts just moments before the cars ahead slam into each other and engage the brakes even before the driver reacts.
2. Security Surveillance
Surveillance cameras have always watched over us, however, they are only as useful as the people monitoring them. It’s usually one or more individuals watching a live stream from multiple video feeds. Most of the existing surveillance systems are passive and exist only as a deterrence or as evidence when something goes wrong. AI from companies such as IC Realtime now gives a boost to these systems by equipping them with digital brains to analyse a video feed without the help of humans. This technology has a wide range of applications in real-time tracking of targets to help police and first responders at a scene.
AI in healthcare involves several technological domains that enable machines to sense, assess, act and learn, so they can perform many of the healthcare and administrative functions. The top five applications in the healthcare industry for AI are in Robot-Assisted Surgery, Virtual Nursing, Administrative Workflow Assistance, Fraud Detection and Dosage Error Reduction, as well as medical diagnostics. It is estimated that the growth in AI healthcare could reach $6 billion by the year 2021, a ten-fold increase from where it is right now.
4. Smart Home Devices
The modern smart house is the next big goal of home appliance makers. Advanced, interconnected hardware run by software which includes forms of AI and Machine Learning have already hit the market. The Viaroom Home, for example, is a smart home controller with self-learning features. It can anticipate user-behaviour and control lighting, room temperature and appliances. It also mimics user habits and turns off the lights or locks the front door at certain times.
AI has had a significant impact on academia by helping automate administrative tasks and cutting down time spent on mundane tasks and increasing time spent on students. Thanks to recent developments in AI on the education front, students and teachers have access to features such as smart content, smart tutors and personalisation to better suit the learning styles of students. Learning is no longer limited to classrooms as students can be taught by virtual teachers in a virtual learning environment.
Artificial intelligence has already brought in disruptive changes to the financial services industry. It finds applications in managing finance, trading, financial advisory services, fraud detection and management, risk assessment, analysis, and more. The usage of AI can be seen in the fintech sector as well. Wealthfront, a California based robo-advisor, employs AI to monitor account activity to analyse and gain insight into how its account holders make financial decisions, invest or spend. It helps them customise the advice they offer to their customers. The banking sector is also leveraging advancements in AI. JPMorgan Chase’s AI-based Contract Intelligence platform can analyse legal documents and extract critical clauses and data points in seconds, a task that once took lawyers 360,000 hours to manually review about 12,000 commercial credit agreements.
Will AI Eat into Jobs or Create New Ones?
History has shown that automating processes augments productivity and frees people from monotonous jobs. But how much can AI take over? And what will be the gains from it? One study shows that AI can revolutionise businesses and contribute as much as &15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Although every sector of the global economy will see benefits from AI, most of the gains are expected to be seen in developed countries as developing nations have much lower rates of adoption.
There are also concerns that Artificial Intelligence will take away many jobs in sectors such as management, service and low skill tasks within the next 20 years and displace as much as 30% of labour force globally. However, experts have mixed opinions on the issue but agree that employees and machines will work together as an integrated unit in the next few years. A study by Pega, a software firm and marketing company Marketforce surveyed 845 senior executives globally in 2017 from sectors such as finance, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, telecom, energy, life sciences, transport and logistics, utilities and media technology. Of the senior executives surveyed, 69% expect the workforce of the future will have human employees working with smart machines. The impact of automation, it says, depends on the nature of the role being automated, such as repetitive manual processes with 79% expecting robotics process automation to improve efficiency significantly.
So where does this leave the future workforce and how will it determine the Employability of the Youth in the upcoming years?
Contrary to the doomsday predictions about widespread loss of jobs, AI and automation would start the trend of a machine-led workforce where employees would need upgraded skills to work alongside machines. In areas where automation would come to dominate, humans would not be displaced, but be diverted to other sectors. There is a growing need to reskill workers in this age of automation, a change brought about by the massive shift from agricultural work to manufacturing that took place in early 19th century. AI has not only moved into the workforce but has also entered talent acquisition and recruitment process outsourcing or RPO. Recruitment industry has already been disrupted by AI technology in the form of online recruitment agencies such as LinkedIn and Monster.com. AI will increasingly be used to evaluate CVs to shortlist candidates for interviews.
The potential for artificial intelligence is huge, and a case can be made for every sector in every industry where AI can assist or entirely take over and improve processes. However, for it to work, there is a need for training sets of relevant data to develop AI, and many of these technologies cannot be readily integrated into existing systems in most businesses. Only companies who are well on their way to digitisation can adopt emerging AI technologies to improve process effectiveness. The secondary challenge is on the human talent side. Data scientists and specialists who have a firm grasp on these technologies are needed to develop them.
Artificial Intelligence is sure to make its way into most, if not all technology eventually. Being the fastest-growing domain, AI has robust support in venture capital market. Globally, investors have leaned towards funding startups with potentially disruptive AI technology which they feel have the best path to innovation and profitability. In the Indian market, venture capital firms such as YourNest Venture Capital with their extensive network of investors and industry experts are focused on co-creating futuristic businesses in AI domain. With a focus on delivering superior returns, YourNest helps startups with innovative technologies to reach their full potential with assistance in team building, systems and process development, and an advisory network while offering operational freedom.