AI blog

AI has me both excited and scared

Of late, one subject domain has really captured my imagination. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the massive disruption it’s going to bring to the world.

Of late, one subject domain has really captured my imagination. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the massive disruption it’s going to bring to the world.

Over the next couple of months, I am going to be reading a lot about this topic. Even as I write this, I have started reading Alec Ross’ ‘The Industries of the Future’. I also intend to read Tim O’Reilly’s WTF?: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us’ and Max Tegmark’s ‘Life 3.0’. 

But why AI?

Early on this month, on my commute to the office, I decided to skip the radio chatter and listen to something productive and useful. I stumbled upon an insightful interview of Vinod Khosla on the future of AI. In case you don’t who he is, Khosla is a billionaire investor and technologist. He was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems.

His prescience about the disproportionate changes AI is going to bring stunned me. I subsequently checked out the podcasts and videos of other stalwarts such as Ray Kurzweil and Nick Bostrom.

Just as the internet killed off the intermediaries and reduced systemic friction all over the world, so will the AI. But unlike the internet, AI is expected to cause more pain than gain, at least in the beginning. Thus far, whenever you talk to people about the labour impact of the AI, they talk about job displacement in manufacturing.

The bitter truth, however, is that advanced robots and AI are not only going to be assembling cars, they would render a large section of the service sector jobless.

If a robot can flip 200 burgers in an hour, slice onions and clean floors, why would you require a dozen people at an outlet? The best part of the investment in robots is that they are not going to ask for the monthly salary and yearly incentives. So, out of the window goes this-month’s-best-employee plaque.

If you further connect the dots, the change won’t stop there. This, in turn, could make the HR function obsolete. For a handful of human employees, AI could take care of the payroll processing and tax administration.

Law is another area where AI will make an astronomical impact. With the exponential advances in machine learning, AI can store swaths of legal documentation and knowledge of precedents.

This could streamline the legal domain. That said, the paralegal experts and patent attorneys could be in for trouble as an AI system could easily reproduce any structured contract within minutes.

I am both excited and scared by the vast extent AI would affect us. These are still early days and we still are in a speculative zone as far as the magnitude of the AI impact is concerned. But industry insiders and AI experts have started ringing the bells of change already.

Here’s Vinod Khosla on the impact on Healthcare sector in another 15 years courtesy AI,

“I see no reason to consult a human being in medicine after the next 15 years. There will be no reason to have a doctor.”

Going forward, I will be writing more about AI and its implications. I will read and review books related to AI, too. If AI has seized your imagination, too, let me know how you plan to enhance your knowledge of this wonderful field.

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  1. I think there’s another side to the coin we’re missing, here: the human element. AI can’t “think” yet, it can’t make its own decisions. Robots are created by humans using algorithms built on scenarios we foresee potentially happening. And even we can’t think of everything… it’s possible the first 200 years’ worth of AI development will turn out to be the equivalent of a walking, talking calculator. What I’m trying to say is I honestly don’t think they pose a threat to our jobs or our culture as a whole. If that makes sense! But! Great article, Amitesh! It really got me thinking.

    1. Hey, thank you for dropping by, Shannon.

      I beg to differ on the timeline you have in mind for the AI breakout. I would peg that stage 20 years away not 200 years courtesy the exponential improvements in machine learning. Only recently, Facebook had two shut down a couple of its AI programs. Why? Because they “collaborated” and invented their own programming language.

      I know sceptics like me are worried more about the malevolent facets than the benign side of the AI. But then, the dangers are real and they are not two centuries away for sure.

  2. I think you’re right… this is going to happen sooner than later. And perhaps it won’t affect the entire world all at once, but the bigger cities probably don’t have very long to wait. Everytime I go out, I see a new advancement in technology taking place. It’s incredible, the speed at which things are taking place. Keeping up with all of it is the biggest challenge. The people who don’t, won’t be able to adapt to all the changes very well, and life will be harder for them because of it. Great post!

    1. Yes, Michelle. A lot of us, when they hear about the breakneck developments in the AI, turn a blind eye as if they would remain unaffected. But AI is not a wave, it’s a tsunami and it will upend our world.

  3. I would definitely read WTF, by Tim O’Reilly, and Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark, both are excellent. To delve into the subject Artificial Intellegence even with the advent of supervised reinforced learning only pursues the goals that the algorithm requests of it, however it is exactly this that Tim O’Reilly discusses in his book, and the fact that a Hybrid Artificial Intellegence already exists in the form of corporations, who’s goal are to increase shareholder value.

    CEO’s that go against the ethos of Milton Friedman and the only required goal is of increasing shareholder value, whether for environmental, humanitarian, or any other reason are usually fired on the spot and replaced by one that focuses on profits. The big question is does anyone control that? And more importantly what are the consequences of an Aritifical Intellegence that is brought to bear with this goal in mind?

    1. WTF sounds like a pretty darn interesting read.

      I have started Tegmark’s Life 3.0 a couple of days back. read the first two chapters and I am glued to it. It’s a page-turner for sure.

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