Artificial Intelligence - Are The Machines Taking Over?

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The debate on Artificial Intelligence continues to rage globally, but what can this mean for your business, and are the machines really going to take over the world?

Artificial Intelligence is already here, and it’s been being used by large organisations for some time. Even the computer systems you use every day have some level of AI, and the software programs you use are automating much of the thought processes you’ve previously done yourself.

If you’re using Windows 10, you have an iPhone or Android phone, then AI’s been part of your world for a while now – Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant are all part of the AI sphere and chances are you’re already well used to them.  Behavioural Algorithms have also been used for some time to manage data, CRM’s for example use AI to help businesses find prospects who are most likely to purchase based on their behaviour, giving the hottest leads to your sales people to follow up and have a personal interaction with.  Google has been using algorithms in their remarketing for some time now, so now you know why the products you’ve been looking at online continue to pop up on other web pages.

AI has the ability to revolutionise what we do and the way we do things, so it’s not all bad news.  What effect will this have on employment and the economy?  The answer is good and bad – AI will impact every worker in some way, with the most dangerous, least enjoyable and often lowest paid jobs being automated first.

The positives on this are the potential drop in workplace injuries, and an increase in job satisfaction through the removal of menial tasks and spending more time on human interaction – for example, teachers may spend less time on entering exam scores, and more time with students.  Retail workers may spend less time stacking shelves, and more time on helping customers find products.  Very dangerous jobs may be automated through robotics, helping save lives and prevent injury. Bookkeepers will spend less time on data entry and more time using the information which has been automated through predictive coding and automated data entry.

Though Australians are early adopters of technology, according to a report commissioned by Google, Australia is lagging behind international rivals in embracing AI and the benefits it can bring with just one in 10 businesses embracing automation – roughly half the rate of some of our global peers.  The two nations who are at the leading edge of AI development are Canada and China.

Productivity gains for Australian businesses who embrace AI technology is said to be significant – anticipating the growth to be a $2.2 trillion boost to our national income between 2015 and 2030 just from productivity gains.

So why the lag?   Are Australian businesses concerned about the loss of Australian jobs and industries?  Or like Elon Musk are we more concerned with the ethical dilemma AI poses?

It’s true, AI has the ability to change every job in some way and certainly eliminate some entry level jobs, meaning students and younger workers launching their careers will be most impacted.  That said, the creative industries where more intensive interpersonal relationships are required, are areas where new jobs will likely be created. So it’s a matter of changing perspectives and skills to adapt.   Reskilling throughout our working life will become the new normal, to ensure workers skills remain relevant to a changing employment landscape. The best use of AI is one that augments people and helps them focus their skills on where it has the greatest impact, not replacing humans entirely.

Another worry is the impact AI is currently having on the media and political discourse, when millions of Donald Trump’s Twitter followers are robots, it’s no wonder there’s so much fake news in algorithms respinning and disseminating potentially false information.

Many tech companies such as Google and Facebook are using algorithms which can increasingly impact our lives in undesirable ways.  Facebook is now the largest news organisation on the planet, yet doesn’t operate under the same constraints as traditional media.  There is increasing distrust over the accuracy of information which is publicly available on these platforms.  You can’t trust everything you read these days.

Recently we attended a presentation by one of the senior technology experts within Telstra.  His presentation talked about flying cars, farms which would no longer have people or animals, personal tutors and even medical devices fitted to our persons which would be monitored 24/7.  Whilst it’s no longer the stuff of sci-fi, some things may be a couple decades off being reality.  The sheer power required to run all this technology is the biggest barrier to first overcome.

I’m a self-confessed technology junkie and an early adopter of tech, but the conspiracy theorist side of my personality is also going more “old school” in some respects, largely to protect my privacy. For example:

  • I don’t use a health tracker because I can see the day when health insurance or life insurance companies will tie their policies to the information these can provide.
  • I am bucking the trend in online shopping – having used it almost exclusively for 20 years now, I’m now going down the path of more in-person shopping. It supports local jobs, and overcomes the massive lag with Australia Post deliveries (if they arrive at all) – but mostly for the fact that I like to support the local economy.
  • I’m very careful what I post and share on social media – no photos of my family, no selfies and I use fake information such as birthday, birthplace etc. (identity and data theft is already an issue, but in my opinion this is going to be the single greatest issue of our generation in years to come).
  • I use incognito searches regularly on my browsers – google collects and uses all your search history to create information and patterns about your behaviour. AI is already hard at work here.  Going incognito keeps them guessing.
  • I’m not an early adopter when it comes to personal assistant tech like Siri and Cortana – I disable them both and won’t install automated tech on my appliances at home – it increases their accessibility to outside sources. I know there are security protocols with all these devices, but as soon as a patch is released there’s a hack around it.
  • I also turn off all internet connected devices (at the power source) when not in use and don’t share our internet passwords with guests, and I regularly change the passwords (how long since you have?). Sometimes it pays to be careful.
  • I also don’t just use the one email account, in fact I have 14 different email accounts and know which ones I use for what – spam is rampant and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to spot fakes. Never click on links.  Go to the source website on an incognito browser, log in and look for the information you want.  Never trust a link in an email.

What’s your view on AI?  Does it concern you, or are you ready to embrace the benefits?  How do you think it will change your business? 

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About the author

Tanya has many years professional experience in marketing and advertising, working in Brisbane and on the Coast in a variety of industries. Tanya now specialises in IT Systems Development, Process Improvement, Digital Marketing and Social Media, working internally on PJT systems and assisting PJT clients.

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