Davos Highlights AI's Massive PR Problem
[...] Artificial Intelligence: The Evolution of AutomationRead the whole thing, for embedded links and more. This will be an ongoing debate for many years to come.
Perhaps Henry Ford was able to build a market for the Model T by paying his assembly line workers a living wage, but it’s not clear if everyone buys into the same principle when it comes to the economic impact of automation today.
In fact, the problem may only be getting worse with the arrival of the next wave of innovation in automation: artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been playing a role in automation for years in the form of assembly line robotics, but innovation in the technology is now reaching an inflection point.
One of the concerns: AI will increasingly target white-collar jobs. “AI is going to focus now as much on white-collar as on blue-collar jobs,” explains John Drzik, President of global risk at insurer Marsh, in the ComputerWeekly article. “You are looking at machine learning algorithms being deployed in financial services, in healthcare and in other places. The machines are getting increasingly powerful.”
Given the sudden and rapid acceleration of innovation in AI, some Davos attendees even sounded alarmed. “The speed at which AI is improving is beyond even the most optimistic people,” according to Kai-fu Lee, a venture capitalist with Sinovation Partners, in the Financial Times article. “Pretty much anything that requires ten seconds of thinking or less can soon be done by AI or other algorithms.”
This kind of alarmist talk emphasizes AI’s greatest public relations hurdle: whether or not increasingly intelligent computers will cast off human control and turn evil, à la Skynet in the Terminator movies. Increasingly intelligent robots replacing humans is “a function of what the market demands,” explains Justine Cassell, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, in the Washington Post article. “If the market demands killer robots, there are going to be killer robots.”
Killer Robots? AI Needs Better PR
Aside from the occasional assembly line worker getting too close to the machinery, killer robots aren’t in the cards for AI in the near term. However, the economic impact that dramatically improved automation might bring is a very real concern, especially given populist pushback.
Wealth and income inequality remain global challenges to be sure, but the accelerating pace of technology innovation brings benefits to everyone. After all, even the poorest people on this planet can often afford a smartphone.
In fact, the ‘killer robots’ context for AI is missing the point, as technology advancement has proven to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem for the woes of globalization. Actually, the disruptions businesses face today are more about speed to market than automation per se.
It’s high time to change the PR surrounding AI from killer robots to digital transformation. “Companies must adapt their business models to driver new areas of revenue and growth,” explains Adam Elster, President of Global Field Operations at CA Technologies. “With digital transformation, the biggest factor is time: how fast can companies transform and bring new products to market.”
Where populism is a scarcity-driven movement – ‘there’s not enough to go around, so I need to make sure I have my share’ – technology innovation broadly and AI in particular are surplus-driven: ‘we all benefit from technology, so now we must ensure the benefits inure to everyone.’ [...]