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Experts Are Divided Over Future Of Artificial Intelligence But Agree On Its Growing Impact – Outlook India

As humans, we love contrast. It is no wonder that experts, while defining the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the future of humankind, are at two ends of the spectrum. One is a happy scenario of human beings and artificially intelligent machines coexisting in perfect harmony. Another is an Orwellian dystopia of AI dominance over human intelligence and civilization. While there may be disagreements about the future, everyone agrees on the impact and growing ubiquity of AI.
Let us look at the potential impact of AI on our society. Algorithms have been generally successful in predicting almost all the weather calamities (except, of course, earthquakes) with reasonable accuracies. Since we started using AI, global death share from natural disasters since 2010 has reduced from 0.47% of all world deaths to 0.02% in 2017. AI worked wonders in healthcare by increasing the accuracy and timeliness of disease detection. Using a combination of big data and machine learning algorithms, we can predict machine part failures better. Stability of electricity grids, metal productions and commodity prices are predicted with astonishing precisions.
Enterprises were quick to jump on the AI bandwagon. Big four tech companies are seen to have made most of it. In the midst of the pandemic, global news media on June 9 reported an all-time high share prices for these companieswith a combined market capitalisation of almost $5 trillion. These companies are changing the way we live, do business and relax. We navigate lot more smoothly now with maps on our phone and do not need a translator to understand another language. We have super-efficient digital assistants to manage our schedules intelligently and can buy essential items from our phones.
Consumer packed goods companies have started using big data and machine learning to determine which of the retail stores should get what commodity and at what price. Many of the manufacturing organisations worldwide have started using predictive analytics to analyse their planning efficiency. Using AI techniques, logistics and transportation companies have started planning significant route optimisation, reducing cost and delivering faster to ports. Banks, stock markets and insurance companies use data, machine learning techniques and natural language processing techniques to provide the precise stocks and other financial products recommendations to their customers. Transformative aspects of AI seem to be going beyond delivering powerful use cases and outcomes. It seems to be changing the model of business itself. Organisations are no longer getting measured by the number of employees, assets and real estate they hold. Classic adage of David killing a Goliath is not a fable anymore. AI seems to have the potential to take a powerful business opportunity, analyse a lot of data with powerful algorithms and present the outcome through multiple channels to bring transformation right at the doorsteps (or screens) of consumers. Possibly, that is where it is getting a bit worrisome.
In his 2018 best seller “Factfulness”, Dr. Hans Rosling points out five global risks that should worry the human race.  He could not have been more prophetic. First of them was global pandemic; others being financial collapse, World War III, climate change and extreme poverty. In the middle of a significant disruption, AI is seen to present a real disturbing proposition. Can the enterprise bring in more automation to replace the severely depleted job markets? Can the potential of AI create a situation where powerful corporations and states with the power of algorithm, processing capability of big data get into a position of more unassailable lead – where they have absolute power and society? Would we be left with the intent and resources to focus on most important challenge in post COVID world – more people than ever in the state of extreme hunger?
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, “Talent hits a target that no one else can hit, Genius hits the target no one else can see”. Human geniuses have their limited time to shape the future as clock ticks on.
(The author is partner, Deloitte India. Views expressed are personal.)