Most artificial intelligence is actually not human-shaped robots or talking computers. The risk of artificial intelligence to jobs should be considered by a Government working group, a law firm and a business organisation say. In a call to action paper, the Institute of Directors and law firm Chapman Tripp have highlighted the risks, opportunities and challenges that artificial intelligence presents. Institute chief executive Simon Arcus said artificial intelligence had the greatest potential to affect people's jobs. "What we don't want to have is a whole lot of efficiencies created by artificial intelligence that displaces people and leaves people with no jobs and no future."
Pepper is a 4ft tall approximation of a human being developed in France, and now manufactured and marketed by the Japanese-owned corporate giant SoftBank Robotics. If you went to the recent Robots exhibitions at London's Science Museum or the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, you will be aware of what he (Pepper has been given a male pronoun, for some reason) can do. Using a screen on his chest, he tells interactive stories, approximates the basics of conversation, and performs everyday gestures – all the while, according to his creators, "recognising the principal human emotions and adapting his behaviour to the mood of his interlocutor". I have met Pepper on three occasions: the fact that my two children were so entranced spoke volumes not just about his capabilities, but the easy charm his inventors have wired into him. More than 100 SoftBank mobile phone shops in Japan are already employing Peppers to interact with their customers; last week brought news that HSBC is doing the same thing in its flagship US branch in Manhattan.
Will smart automation, intelligent software bots and brainy robots take away our jobs anytime soon? Pose this question to any Indian working in a company where unions are strong, or to any Indian who has a government job, or to the majority of Indians who work in the unorganized sector--those who drive taxis, trucks pull handcarts, hawk goods on footpaths or are employed as maids--and you will, in all probability, be looked at askance or even dismissed as an uninformed prophet of doom. The reaction may not be surprising in emerging countries like India, given that a majority of such employees would never have heard about the Industrial Revolution, or terms like disguised unemployment, cloud computing, machine learning, deep learning, automation or artificial intelligence (AI)-driven software bots. They would perhaps have also never heard of drones taking photographs and doing surveillance; of robots delivering pizzas and packages; of assistive robots taking care of the elderly; of robots making hamburgers and others like the Roomba robots that mop floors; of software bots writing articles and movie scripts; of three-dimensional or 3D printing revolutionizing the manufacturing sector; of driverless cars and trucks--all of which would make it very hard for them to imagine the future impact of these technologies that have not yet directly touched their lives or their jobs. They would have surely seen humanoid robots in sci-fi films like actor Rajnikant's Enthiran in Tamil or Robot in English, or a movie like Terminator or Transformers.
Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, seeking greater efficiency in calculating their payouts to policyholders, will soon replace many of its office workers with an AI system based on IBM's Watson Explorer ("a cognitive technology that can think like a human"). In a recent press release, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance stated an expected increase in productivity by 30% from their "Diagnostic document assessment automatic coding system." The AI system will be used to read and understand medical certificates, hospital stays, surgical procedures, and medical history to make a more accurate assessment of payouts. According to reporting from the Guardian, the company will see a return on investment in less than two years. In a small concession for human workers, the payouts will not be finalized until approved by a non-AI staffer.
While nuances separate their individual capabilities, they all take roughly the same form: a human-like voice embedded into a smart speaker, mobile phone, automobile, or similar piece of hardware. Japanese messaging giant Line, however, wants to give virtual assistants a more human form. The company this week opened preorders for the latest iteration of the Gatebox virtual home robot, a holographic character that is designed to provide companionship to its owner. The Gatebox is a little table lamp-sized glass case that uses projections and sensors to create a life-like character, called Hikari Azuma, that the user can interact with. By way of a quick recap, the Gatebox was originally developed by a Japanese firm called Vinclu, which launched a limited run of 300 units in 2016, priced at the equivalent of around $2,670 each.