What can AI actually do?
As you may have noticed, we have a long way to go before we have reached the level of world dominating AI. Even with the updates Apple plans to bring, it needs some work. I use this example, because it really doesn’t matter what the most powerful computations a single computer can make. Sure, IBM Watson – or maybe some computer unknown to the public – may be very capable at driving an AI system, but it has to be exponentially more powerful if it wants to provide the same level of performance across an entire nation.
I don’t foresee driverless vehicles running their control algorithms on a remote server: the risk vs. reward seems very lopsided. If there were any sort of connectivity issues, then what could happen? Right now that might equate to a few wrecks and possibly more deaths. If an entire nation’s traffic was suddenly out of control the casualties would be insurmountable. Therefore, we have to evaluate this technology not by what is possible in ideal circumstances but what is possible to mass produce. Siri is certainly nowhere near the peak of modern AI capabilities nor does it serve the same purpose as the AI in driverless cars; however, it is not entirely unfair to compare the two. Although this iPhone technology may be subpar, it is also ubiquitous and can serve as a sort of case study for what we may expect with future consumer AI.
Losing Jobs to AI
Jobs currently performed by humans will disappear as AI takes over. That doesn’t mean we have to stress, but it does mean we should start to prepare. For a great example of the best steps to take, look no further than the movie Hidden Figures.
If you haven’t seen the movie, the above clip is a scene in which Dorothy Vaughan turns the tables by not only saving her own job but also the jobs of her entire team. Not depicted are the hours and hours of work Dorothy and her team did to prepare for that moment. Those who sit idly by as technology improves are in for a rude awakening. For many people (drivers are the most obvious victims but likely others will take a hit) the wave of AI is going to crash down hard. Some will buy umbrellas – legislation protecting industries may slow down the progress but won’t really have any long-term effect. Others will learn how to swim – energy-consuming effort will be exhausting, but they’ll learn how to work alongside AI. The best will build an ark – not only will they survive, but their business’ entire purpose will be fundamentally dependent upon the AI flood.
AI as a Political Platform
As mentioned above, current language understanding by computers is limited, but how might we use it in the future? Now this is just an idea, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. You may have noticed a popular trend among politicians is to take photos with giant legislation bills and a pouty face (Note: this happens frequently on both sides of the aisle).
I would love to say maybe we cut these bills down to a lot less pages, so legislators can know what they are voting on, but the truth is that to enforce such a rule would be insanely difficult, maybe impossible, and ironically possibly illegal. Maybe AI could provide a solution. If AI could understand English text, it might be possible to condense these bills and reduce redundancies within them. Ideally this would happen on the front end by the people introducing the bill, but perhaps there is incentive to make giant and convoluted bills (see: Pork barrel). In the future AI could potentially read through such a giant manuscript and create a one page summary of the critical issues. Furthermore, it might even be able to create a report of how many pages deal with specific issues, thus performing two functions: (1) highlight the biggest issues brought forth by the bill and (2) reveal the tiny issues someone might be trying to sneak in without others noticing.
AI could become a ‘political platform,’ not just in the traditional sense of the phrase but also in the way Google and Apple have built technology platforms. I might be too hopeful to think technology could make the government efficient, but here’s to hoping.