Just yesterday my sister shared her apprehensions towards artificial intelligence and the "robot uprising". It got me thinking, on how narrow-minded the entire approach is per se. Well, for first up artificial intelligence & machine algorithms are an evidence of the human mind's capabilities in itself. Which other living thing could possibly get an inanimate object to predict and make them continuously learn and evolve during the entire process? I can't think of any other living thing, but us-humans!
To re-emphasise my point of view, picture this: you are at your desk job...probably a customer service executive and handling the social media accounts or even the e-mail your customers can reach out to you with. Most queries could be on returns management, refunds, delayed deliveries or just general product enquiries. For this category of queries recieved, where in essence are you getting the chance to exercise your mind much? Majorly repetitive. However, if it is a query on fraudulent sales, that is where you can get your grey matter to some use and work. Probably, even when you are analysing your customer service trends: you know the typical-number of queries, category of queries, closure and resolution of queries in time, cost of manning the handles etc. It is in the former category of repetitive queries that Artificial Intelligence can and is being used to eliminate redundant tasks. Here is where chat-bots have mastered this art. There are firms across the world that have completely automated their processes just by investing in chat-bots. One such example is that of a legal service, wherein the forms, permissions and legalities involved to purchase property is fairly constant. Same, goes for the fact when investing in insurances or even setting your own business. Well, to this my sister asked me "How is it helping me?, I may lose my job and the bots will just rule the world?"
The very fundamental reason why humans are at the top of the hierarchy in the animal kingdom is because of our complex, superior and well developed nervous system and the brain. So, if we are the ones behind chat-bots, or predictive analytics while on a search engine-that reduces our time to even type what we want to search; then it only makes sense for us as humans to keep utilising our skills for bettering tasks. Freeing ourselves up for monitoring, analysing and decision-making. Why would anyone want to continue carrying out mind-numbing tasks in the first place? Why not be the one who monitors these bots, analyses their outputs and prepare a foundation for progress? The Japanese have a term for this called Jidoka-autonomation i.e. automation with human intervention. Industrial robots are heavily used in manufacturing firms: primarily to speed up output, however it is not completely possible without a human monitor or in-charge: when to turn on the machine, what design goes in, how long should it run to arrive at the targetted output etc. are all key decisions that only a human mind is capable of considering. So, you still have a job-much better one in fact!
To reiterate the importance of automating repetitive tasks is when you are filling in an admission form online, or even filing your taxes or on a Govt. website to renew a passport. How many of us have been successful in enlisting this information at one shot? (Not me for certain!!) It is no hidden knowledge that these forms are fairly lengthy (5 tabs including 5 major steps, with an average of 10 input fields in each and also an upload of relevant documents), highly time consuming and require utmost attention. Most of us are even scampering around in a treasure hunt to look for the documents, the form mandates as an input field. Throw in poor servers, internet connectivity constraints and we are back to square one-Step 1 of the procedure. Now who would want to re-type their name, contact information, address, etc. all over again? Hence, enters Artificial Intelligence to the rescue: a prompt that has identified your trend of what you plan on typing in and just like that you have all your details punched in. Again. This was possible just by eliminating the entire process of re-typing it from scratch!
My sister then asked me,"So, basically everyone should just become a coder and start developing such bots and keep themselves safe from being a target of another cost cutting management decision.." Well, not necessarily. There are and have always been two kinds of people-the creators: like the engineers, designers, architects, painters etc. and then those who do everything else and monetise on what the creators have created: the strategic planners, the managers, the analysts. One can take places between the two types; and probably be skilled as both; however technology will only always be an enabler to achieve quicker results. It cannot replace what the human mind is actually designed to carry out that is-evolution.
Lets understand this a bit more with the help of History and Biology. Memories are caused by neurons and their synaptic contacts. This occurs, everytime there is a repetition of a task: hence teachers ask you to write your tables, war dates etc. 5, 10, 15 times, until they are embedded in your memory. However, is this really effective? Why would you want to memorise something you can always look up; you might as well make use of it as is, as a foundation stone and proceed to build upon it. Historically, humans evolved from apes as 4-legged animals to those who stand erect on 2 limbs now. If biologically, we are wired towards evolution then so should we towards progression and continual improvement aka another lesson from the good old Japanese called kaizen. So lets all look at Artificial Intelligence as an improvement and enhancement of the present tasks at hand and an enabler to make our lives easier rather than compete with it for the fear of losing a job. Clearly, we are of the race that has an evolved brain, lets allow it to use its complete intellectual potential, while AI frees us up a bit more. Well, my sister now looks at technology as a collaborator and not a competitor; just in case you were wondering and has gone ahead to even propagate it to her seniors at work. Well that's some evolution in thought!