A brave new world
But there is still no need to fear for John Connor. "Terminator stories or real possibilities of them ever happening are at least several hundred years in the future," according to Jamshid Alamuti, co-founder of Pi School, where creativity and technology meet. He believes that people tend to think of AI development happening faster than it really is. "We have been talking about AI for more than four decades, but we haven't yet seen a real breakthrough." Until now!
Slovenia, as stated in Forbes, was one of the countries to first embrace AI, research at the Jozef Stefan Institute started in 1972. After almost five decades, AI is poised to change the global labour market, the way companies make products, do business and the way we live our everyday life. People are already having conversations with their smart assistants from Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), Bixby (Samsung), Cortana (Microsoft) to the rather boringly named Google Assistant. They can transform a living room into a cinema in a word. Soon, smart fridges will automatically order food from stores and maybe even suggest smart stoves cook food from those ingredients that are approaching their expiration date.
In Potsdam, Germany, people can now commute on trams operated by AI. Yes, some tram drivers may lose their jobs to AI, other workers from different industries surely will, but in the long run most stand to gain. That is at least what Robert B Cohen from the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington thinks, writing for the Financial Times that: "While AI-based robots will displace jobs, innovative cloud-computing-based software will open a wealth of new opportunities." And it is already happening. According to Cohen's estimates, from 2015-2018, the use of such software contributed between 140,000 to 520,000 new jobs to the US economy. It has also likely added somewhere between US $200bn and US $1.5tn to US GDP.
AI is increasingly being used in medicine, where AI robots help operate and AI algorithms help to diagnose. The use of AI is enabling review and translation of mammograms 30 times faster with 99% accuracy, reducing the need for an unnecessary biopsy. By listening to what a person says, the tone of voice and background voices, algorithms realise that someone is having a heart attack in 93% of cases. People guess only 73% of the time. Via optimisation, AI is also helping in the financial world - Boston Consulting Group estimates that AI could help the top ten banks generate an additional US $150bn to US $220bn in annual operating earnings. British company, DeepMind, for instance, developed an AI system to autonomously manage the cooling in Google's big data centres, delivering around 30% in energy savings. Think of the impact that a 30% reduction in energy use would mean for humankind facing extreme climate changes? AI is the future, investors realise it, funding for global AI startups has grown at a 60% compound annual growth rate since 2010 and it isn't going to stop now.
There is no denying the opportunities that AI presents, yet it also poses a few challenges. "Despite the hype, tech often gravitates toward the safest and most commercially short-term ideas: creating personalised soda drinks when half a billion people don't have access to clean water or new ways to order food when more than 800 million people are malnourished. We need new incentive structures that encourage technologists to take on society's gravest challenges, and to do so with ethics at their heart," wrote Mustafa Suleyman of DeepMind for the Economist.
There is no doubt AI has the potential to change the world, but it depends on us in what way. It can either save the millions from hunger, disease and poverty or it can increase inequality. Will it bring prosperity or WWIII? Time will tell.