The second decade of the twenty first century is turning out to be a special one. Of course, much of the new technology that we are seeing now, are years of hard work by the previous generation, slowly bearing fruit. This generation is now making their dreams come true. AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality) seem to be the two gateways towards realising the ultimate goal of AA (Anything Anywhere).

AI applications have grown massively and it seems 2016 is the year when it has truly begun its journey towards maturation. Name an area of our lives and someone is already trying to apply AI to improve things, be it – Medicine, Cars, Games, Army – you name it and AI has made its entry in that field. So, the big question now is should we be scared? Or is it a good thing? What are the concerns and what can be the benefits?

Let’s begin with the areas where AI and AR have begun their magic and areas where AI experts believe these will have a deep impact in future.

Medicine 

Systems running algorithms that crunch millions of medical history records and recommend a medicine to the doctor can be seen as early forms of Artificial Intelligence in the medical world. Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville are using similar systems that are helping them to diagnose patients better. Whilst a particular medicine can cure a medical condition, the same medicine might be harmful to a patient with the same condition along with some other condition. This is where data crunching of unstructured medical records and to be able to reach a conclusion quickly can be a saviour. There has also been reports in the past one year or so where MIT is developing AI based cancer diagnosis systems.

Artificial Intelligence based medical systems can bring medical facilities to all nuke and corner of this world especially the countries where medical facilities are not easy to get when needed! Can we not dream of a personal AI based doctor, always accessible to us suggesting the right medicine when we need it or even taking care of our daily routine? Surely,with the recent promise that research has shown this can be a reality in a few years!

Transportation

Remember Total Recall featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger had Johny Cabs powered by AI? Google’s AI driver became a legal driver in US this year. Companies like Tesla motors, Volvo, Valeo, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Audi, Bosch and many more are already testing out Self driving cars that are capable to take a decision in any situations on the road.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality) seem to be the two gateways towards realising the ultimate goal of AA (Anything Anywhere).

Industries

Robots with a degree of Artificial Intelligence are being utilised in industries for work that are otherwise deemed as dangerous for humans. Recently, these robots are also being introduced as part of the workforce as a long term strategy for cost benefit purposes. Foxconn, Apple’s iphone manufacturer has announced such a replacement of human workforce with robots.

Call Centres

AI is well poised to take over most Call Centressoon. According to some recent reports, AI agents took over almost 20% calls of a Call Centre within a couple of months of ‘training’.

Next Gen meetings

In his book, The Physics of the future, Dr. Michio Kaku describes a situation where a meeting is ongoing between people from different Geo locations. They discuss, argue and at last shake their hands before leaving to their physical bases. Yes, the meeting was taking place in a Virtual meeting room where the people were able to see each other, sat next to each other exactly as they would do in a physical meeting room. They even shake their hands and feel each other, thanks to the advancement of cognitive technologies across the internet where human sensations can be experienced at will!

Concerns

There are endless fields where AI, AR are being used for the betterment of life but there are concerns too. Recently eminent entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and scientists like Stephen Hawking have expressed their concerns regarding advanced Artificial Intelligent systems. They are concerned that these systems might become super Intelligent and a threat to the human race who will then not remain the most ‘Intelligent’ race on this planet anymore. A term that is being increasingly used to describe this threat of AI systems is ‘Singularity’. What exactly is this ‘Singularity’? Remember the swarm of micro-organisms in Michael Crichton’s sci-fi ‘Prey’ ? The micro-organisms which were the by-products of this bio-electronics factory in a remote desert, started thinking on its own and formed swarms of micro-organisms to threaten human race. This is ‘Singularity’. AI systems could start thinking on their own, thereby building their own character – good or bad. If bad then they can start destroying the lesser intelligent beings and use them for their own ‘benefits’. Sounds similar, isn’t it? Well, there is a role reversal here surely and this time human race can be on the receiving end!

One thing that is for sure is Darwinism is under threat. Increasingly, Natural Selection will become less important and Choice of Design will become more important. Steve Grand, the British Roboticist says

Control is as much an effect as a cause, and the idea that control is something you exert is a real handicap to progress

What we, as in the human race, choose to design will determine our future.

As always all these new technologies will have their own pitfalls.  In some ways, knowing more has taken away the charm of that travel to the unknown place which you used to take, without exactly knowing what the destination has in store for you or even the time one used to spend with their family, catching up with each other at the end of the day on how the day went (you get to know from Facebook these days!). Yet, technology will continue to evolve and how! It is up to us to use it in the most judicial manner to save lives, to efficiently use the ‘short’ time we have in our hands (Average lifespan is circa 70 years for humans, these days). Otherwise, this can be the harbinger of doom! Developing ‘Social empathy’ is key here and should be nurtured in schools. I will go as far as saying, all AI systems should also have an ‘Empathy module’ in them – the module that does not keep them under human control but make them think in a way, probably humans of today should think like…..

” If Technology be the boat, then Empathy is the oar,
Only together and not alone, can they conquer the shore……. “

Image Credit : Pixabay