Yes, for sure, artificial intelligence has already revolutionized our economy, the way we work, the way we think, the expectations we have for our relationships in work and in life itself.
Chess- and Jeopardy-playing supercomputers make global headlines beating human geniuses; chatbots are overnight a whole sub-economy for customer service. AI has subsumed almost anything that makes money through human data—driverless cars, travel booking websites, vast weather prediction systems, tiny smart sensors to manage your lights and HVAC, spam filters, that creepy thing Amazon does with your past purchase choices—well, say hello to the Brave New World of time-saving, market-driven AI.
In real estate and financial services, that whooshing sound you hear is AI vacuuming up format-heavy tasks in the big law firms and accounting houses.
AI can even generate really funky names for craft beers: I’d give Frog Trail Ale a shot, wouldn’t you?
But here’s the thing. The world isn’t coming to an end. Human beings will never not need other human beings to share their story and their lived experience.
Chess playing computers play, well, chess. Massive supercomputers parsing out myriad weather possibilities can do that. That’s it. They can’t fry an egg or get your teenager to clean up his room or anything else. They’re unbelievably powerful one-trick ponies.
And AI is limited by the very nature of intelligence: intelligence is a human asset. All the machine can do is refine what a human has created—at least for now. The really scary AI—the stuff of science fiction, of sinister machines tracking down helpless humans—what data scientists term ‘superintelligence’—does in fact ‘learn’ and learns exponentially fast. But this AI ain’t here yet.
For now, each and every data output of these minor miracles needs to be interpreted and implemented by a human team.
The true promise of AI lies in the collaboration between man and machine. Who says so? IBM, for one:
Much was learned in pitting AI systems against human opponents. Most significant is the realization that AI can best be used to fill the gaps in human ability, and vice versa. AI technology has evolved significantly, but AI systems are not nearly as good as humans at common sense reasoning or thinking creatively and strategically. Such gaps will likely remain for decades to come.
The Romans had a god called Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and ending: Janus was two-headed, facing into both the past and the future at the same time. And yes, the month of January is named for him.
AI will change entire industries—but even as jobs morph in the digital economy, we’ll be looking backwards as well as forwards: in 2020, the cutting edge degree in data science won’t be STEM-based.
It’ll be one very human attribute: empathy.
image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Janus1.JPG