If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
In 2010, I attended the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) CVPR (Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition) conference at the Hyatt in downtown San Francisco. I didn't expect the conference to be as large as it was, but it had more than 1,500 in attendance, to the best of my recollection. The conference reminded me of the size of the conferences held at the same hotel when the industry was arguing over different standards for Wi-Fi, with multi-billion dollar markets at stake. However, unlike the practical approach of implementing the maturing Wi-Fi technology, where presentations were mainly made by engineers working for companies competing over their ability to assert their intellectual rights into the standards, the CVPR presentations were mainly made by university researchers, and researchers from "deep-research" arms of some of the world's largest technology companies, who didn't expect the fruit of their research to reach maturity anytime soon. One of the presentations I sat through struck a chord with me.
DETROIT -- Automakers have been rushing to develop self-driving technologies, but some consumers might be ready to tap the brakes. The J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study shows an increased wariness of fully self-driving technology since last year even as consumers continue to want technology that assists drivers. The study highlights a risk automakers are concerned about -- the negative impression that high-profile but isolated accidents can have on the perceived safety of driverless cars. And yet, both J.D. Power researchers and industry experts say consumers will eventually come around. "The engineering will get there.
This week Manthan catches up with AI expert and influencer, Dr. Craig Brown. Craig is a "techpreneur" and big data subject matter expert. The CEO of STEM Resource Partners, Craig works diligently to increase the use of natural everyday language in technical fields to help facilitate the conversation between tech companies and professionals. MANTHAN: How has the growing complexity of data, driven AI development? CRAIG: The increase in machine learning and cognitive computing capabilities and the data that is generated, as a result of these capabilities, is a major contributor to AI development.
CBS News, and reporter David Pogue, displayed some new technologies threatening jobs, while the International Federation of Robotics suggested that deploying robots actually increases jobs. In this Sunday Morning CBS News piece, David Pogue cites the numbers of drivers that will be displaced as self-driving cars and trucks hit the roads (180k taxi drivers, 600k Uber drivers and 3.5 million truck drivers). He then explores other areas where bots and robots will soon disrupt employment: 230k workers in fintech along with 47% of many other occupations could be lost to automation in the next 20 years. He concludes with an MIT economics professor who suggests that, historically, new occupations have risen and overall employment has also risen even as major disruptions have happened over the last 100 years. Last week's Chicago Automate and ProMat trade shows began with a press conference by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) which included a CEO Roundtable discussing automation, the future of US manufacturing, and the jobs issue.
In my previous blog, I discussed my take on the future and potential of artificial intelligence, analyzing my own use of an Amazon's Alexa Voice Service technology, and dreaming up a world where artificial assistants are our closest friends, our number one source of news and entertainment, and AI supersedes existing platforms in a post-digital era. At this point you might peg me as Joaquin-Phoenix-Her-level strange, but the market for Alexa skills proves that I'm not alone. Per the Alexa skill store, the largest skill categories for Alexa include news, games, trivia and accessories, educational reference, and novelty and humor in that order. Further, the most downloaded skills include an interactive adventure called Magic Door, a skill that reads bedtime stories, and a skill called "Inspire Me." Consumers are leveraging the entertainment value of these devices rather than their utility, and industry leaders are taking note. According to Fjord, "Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are already hiring comedians and script writers in a bid to harness the human-like aspect of AI."
Forrester Research recently projected that robotics and automation will displace 24.7 million jobs and create 14.9 million new jobs by 2027, with impact likely to be felt across many industries--from medical research and restaurants to construction and mining. This has some job holders concerned about their futures, but for companies that can't find qualified or willing workers, robotics and automation offer a way out--and few Americans are going to object to it. Just what jobs are companies are struggling to fill because people just don't want them? We need look no further than the trucking and warehouse distribution industries. There are 3.5 million truck drivers across the country, and in 2015, the average annual wage for drivers was $40,000.
The AI-related stories landing in your Facebook and Twitter feeds are mostly about doomsday Artificial General Intelligence scenarios. While interesting, they distract from the more pressing issue at hand. AI-driven automation will create new jobs and help people to be more productive, but the painful truth is that AI-driven automation of both specific work activities and entire jobs will be incredibly disruptive to hundreds of millions of people around the globe. The McKinsey Global institute and The Obama Whitehouse, respectively, believe that "60% of all occupations have at least 30% of activities that are technically automate-able," and "47% of U.S. jobs are at risk of being replaced by AI technologies" over the next 10–20 years. When a company stands to gain enormous financial benefits from automating a certain work task, and said task is automate-able with current artificial intelligence techniques, you can expect for it to be automated quickly.
They are coming and they will completely alter our economic reality. However, instead of planning for this revolutionary change, America's politicians -- from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on down -- continue to cling to the illusion that, with the right tinkering, there can be enough jobs enough for everyone, just like in the good old days. Well, the good old days are gone, and a story on the Futurism website demonstrates why: Changying Precision Technology Co.'s cellphone factory in China recently replaced 90% of its workers with machines and saw productivity increase by 250% while the number of product defects fell by 80%. This is great news for the company, not so great news for the now-unemployed workers. Because free-market capitalism moves relentlessly toward innovation and efficiency, this is a phenomenon that will be repeated in small steps and big leaps in every industrialized society.
Uber has been under a lot of negative headlines recently but you can't dismiss the fact that the progress it has made under Travis Kalanick is quite impressive. There are so many people relying on Uber every day, some to get to places while some to make money by driving those people to places. If you remember Kalanick's TED talk, you might be able to recall that it ended with the question "What will you say to your army of million drivers when self-driving cars take over". You can't really ignore the fact that someday, it is going to displace drivers. While he was quick to dismiss that as a real problem claiming that it is going to take much longer than we expect and will be a long transition starting with only some areas, a lot is actually being said about how AI will affect many industries.
Summary: Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) are supposed to be just around the corner but the anecdotal evidence is that their claims to safety are way out ahead of reality. The solution may be in a shared segment of on-board telematics, part of the SLAM group (simultaneous localization and mapping) and sharing some of that data car-to-car. According to many in the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry we're supposed to see self-driving cars on the road as early as 2018. At the outside that's only 18 or 20 months from now. These won't necessarily be level 5 AVs (no steering wheel, no pedals, works in all environments all the time) but to get in the game these need to be at least level 3 (autonomous in most but not all situations with driver standing by to take control).