Artificial intelligence is already part of our lives in countless ways. It has made our smartphones smarter, helping us to find information faster and to organize our daily tasks. It’s helped create digital assistants like Google Assistant and Apple Siri, which recognize our voice and can answer questions or perform actions. It’s used to optimize and personalize search engine results and power apps that can learn over time to improve performance.
AI is also improving health and safety by helping human scientists to understand the causes of diseases more quickly and efficiently and by discovering new drugs at lower costs. The technology enables what’s known as “precision medicine,” which means tailored treatments for specific patients instead of one-size-fits-all drug prescriptions.
In addition, it enables more accurate weather forecasts to help avoid disruption from natural disasters and provide early warning of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions through drones equipped with seismic sensors. It can even reduce damage to buildings, roads, and railways by using the latest machine-learning algorithms to detect structural problems and automatically trigger repairs.
It’s even assisting farmers in delivering safer and healthier food by using data to optimize crop rotation, minimize fertilizer and pesticide use, and track livestock movement. The EU-funded SatisFactory project, for example, uses collaborative and augmented reality systems to increase job satisfaction in intelligent factories and operate robots to remove weeds from fields and reduce the need for chemical herbicides.
The fear is that AI could eventually eliminate millions of jobs, although the hope is it will improve how people do their work. For instance, the Associated Press trained its AI software to write short earnings news stories, freeing up journalists to focus on more in-depth pieces. AI also reduces the need for bank branch visits by analyzing customers’ spending habits to identify potential fraud and recommend relevant services.
However, there are concerns about the ethical implications of AI. For example, facial recognition technologies could lead to a loss of privacy and threaten our fundamental rights. And the development of deepfake videos that replicate a person’s appearance and voice poses serious risks.
It’s expected that the technology will continue to improve, with experts predicting that by 2025 it will have reached what’s been described as its ‘inflection point’ – when it becomes capable of matching or exceeding human performance in many areas. It will be able to efficiently complete many tasks, freeing humans up to focus on more creative and productive activities. This will transform many sectors of the economy and boost productivity by reducing repetitive, low-value manual tasks. It will also change how we live, from how we travel and interact with the world to the foods and clothes we eat. It’s an exciting prospect, but we should be careful not to get carried away with the hype and hyperbole.