World-renowned thinkers – such as Stephen Hawking, innovator Elon Musk, and Microsoft mastermind Bill Gates – have all expressed concern about a future dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, Andrew Ng, chief scientist at the Chinese search engine Baidu and one of the world’s leading AI researchers, says that AI is more likely to take job roles such as truck driving and service industries rather than serve as the catalyst for an apocalyptic end to the world.
Ng and many other AI thinkers are irritated by this notion, or fear mongering, that the public seem to have regarding AI and its potential effect. The consensus amongst these thinkers is that there are short term and long-term issues, but currently it is only the long-term issues gaining media attention and hype.
The pace at which technology and artificial intelligence are increasingly dominating almost all areas of life such as social, business, and education is astounding. For example, it took 200 years for the United States to switch from an agricultural economy, where 90% of the country worked on farms, to the current economy, where it is about 2%. Ng predicts that the AI switch-over will come much faster, which could potentially cause a problem for medium and low skilled workers. Artificial intelligence has been developed to drive 500 miles, robot butlers at hotels can deliver toothbrushes, and data shifting computers can perform a paralegals role with ease. In China, efficient robot waiters were recently introduced with the ability to lift up to 3 kilograms, deliver dishes, collect empty plates and communicate with customers in simple sentences.
The “second machine age”, as some MIT academics (Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee) say we are being introduced to, is due to the accelerating rate of change brought on by digital technologies. An example of this are mini drones being used by companies to deliver packages to customers who shop online. This approach has also started to penetrate the Gulf Region, as UAE has announced its plans to use unmanned aerial drones to deliver official documents and packages to its citizens as part of efforts to upgrade government services.
The next step in combating a large job loss epidemic is for governments, businesses and individuals to understand and construct an action plan that could sustain those whose roles are replaceable.