Growing up, I was always fascinated by science-fiction films. From Blade Runner to The Terminator, these movies illustrated futuristic worlds shaped by technological innovations which gave rise to advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), taking over the world.
AI however has emerged as one of the most significant forces behind the digital transformation of business in the modern-day. Many believe AI has the potential to not only impact the corporate world but lead to ground-breaking applications which will have profound effects on every aspect of our daily lives.
Despite its incredible promise, some like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk still warn of the coming AI apocalypse. In fact, Elon Musk’s new company, Neuralink, aims to stop a Terminator-style attack by fusing man and AI through brain links.
So, what exactly is AI? how can it impact the way we conduct business and deliver services in time to come and what are the areas that we ought to be most concerned about?
The concept of what defines AI has changed over time, but at the core, there has always been the idea of building machines that are capable of thinking like humans.
Machine learning is one of the most common types of artificial intelligence in development for business purposes today. Machine learning is used to process large amounts of data quickly. These types of artificial intelligence are algorithms that appear to “learn” over time, getting better at what they do the more often they do it. Feed a machine learning algorithm more data and its modeling should improve. Machine learning is useful for putting vast troves of data – captured by connected devices and the internet of things – into a digestible context for humans.
Every industry has a high demand for AI capabilities – especially question answering systems that can be used for legal assistance, patent searches, risk notification and medical research. Other uses of AI include:
Health Care: AI applications can provide personalized medicine and X-ray readings. Personal health care assistants can act as life coaches, reminding you to take your pills, exercise or eat healthier.
Retail: AI provides virtual shopping capabilities that offer personalized recommendations and discuss purchase options with the consumer. Stock management and site layout technologies will also be improved with AI.
Manufacturing: AI can analyze factory IoT data as it streams from connected equipment to forecast expected load and demand using recurrent networks, a specific type of deep learning network used with sequence data.
Banking: Artificial Intelligence enhances the speed, precision and effectiveness of human efforts. In financial institutions, AI techniques can be used to identify which transactions are likely to be fraudulent, adopt fast and accurate credit scoring, as well as automate manually intense data management tasks.
Within the last month however the European Union announced tougher rules to regulate this rapidly spanning field. The draft regulations impose checks on technology considered “high-risk” and include a ban on most surveillance and live facial scanning, as well as AI systems to filter out school, job or credit scoring. AI applications used in critical infrastructure migration and law enforcement would also be subject to strict safeguards.
EU officials see the rules as an attempt to set global standards for what it views as essential technology. They also hope they would dispel myths and misconceptions about AI so that the bloc can catch up with US and China in this expanding field.
So where is the Caribbean in this ever-expanding debate and use of AI. It’s fair to say that we are still in our infancy. As noted by one writer the Caribbean on average ranks low for ease of doing business. Inefficient processes, labour issues, and corruption make our business climate weak and prevents us from maximising the benefits of private sector development. AI could help increase productivity, especially in the public sector, to better our business environment and attract investment.
Recently it was announced that the Cropper Foundation’s newly launched Data for Development Lab, has been awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society to lead the implementation of a project investigating practical applications of artificial intelligence models for supporting climate-smart-agriculture in the Caribbean, as a 2021 National Geographic Explorer.
With good, there is always the bad, and with AI this is no different. Many have noted that AI presents three major areas of ethical concern for society: privacy and surveillance, bias and discrimination, and perhaps the deepest, most difficult philosophical question of the era, the role of human judgment.
We are now discovering that many of the algorithms that decide who should get released from jail or who should be presented with employment opportunities, housing, loans or social services replicate and embed the biases that already exist in our society.
As noted by Professor Sandel of Harvard University “We have to enable all …..to learn enough about tech and about the ethical implications of new technologies so that when they are running companies or when they are acting as democratic citizens, they will be able to ensure that technology serves human purposes rather than undermines a decent civic life”.