The concept of artificial intelligence was first described by American scientist John McCarthy. He came up with the term in 1955 but he had already been working on programming languages that could support the development of artificial intelligence. John McCarthy is the father of A.I. Computer scientist by profession and cognitive scientist through his years of developing lisp, the family of languages that could power artificial intelligence, McCarthy won the United States National Medal of Science and the Kyoto Prize. He won the Turing Award in 1971.
History of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence was described by John McCarthy as the science and engineering of developing programs that are truly intelligent. The concept of artificial intelligence actually predates the invention of computers. The goal of A.I. in its primitive years was to develop programs and not necessarily robots or larger than life sentient beings. McCarthy dreamed of a program that could be truly independent of human intervention. He wanted an inorganic version of the human brain but more intelligent as there are limitations to human intelligence.
Artificial intelligence has a simple philosophy. The objective is to create systems that can exhibit true independence and intelligence, not just in computation but also behaviour, demonstration, explanation, learning and advice. The programs should be able to think and act independently. Contrary to what many people think, artificial intelligence is already an integral part of our lives. One does not need robots to walk on the streets to acknowledge the manifestation of artificial intelligence. Also, artificial intelligence is not limited to robotics, computers or engineering. It affects nearly all industries.
Artificial intelligence is not an exclusive discipline in computer science. It is a multidisciplinary premise with engineering, mathematics, linguistics, psychology and biology. It is true that artificial intelligence can have limitless powers but that is a stage we are yet to reach and it is still very much within the control of the creators. Artificial intelligence is still not perfect as there are many challenges and hence complete independence or autonomy is still a distant dream.
An Overview of Earliest Artificial Intelligence Applications
In 1950, Alan Turing created a test to assess intelligence. It was later called the Turing Test. There is a comprehensive account of Alan Turing describing it in Computing Machinery and Intelligence. John McCarthy was the first to demonstrate an artificial intelligence program at Carnegie Mellon University. McCarthy developed the lisp family of programming languages. Danny Bobrow, a student at MIT in 1964, showed computers being capable of understanding natural languages and algebra. Joseph Weizenbaum created an interactive program Eliza in 1965 at MIT. Eliza could converse in English.
Since then, artificial intelligence has been pursued and improved by numerous brilliant minds. Scientists at Stanford Research Institute designed the first robot Shakey that had the ability to move, understand and solve problems. Shakey was succeeded by Freddy created in 1973 by Assembly Robotics. Stanford Cart, a computer controlled vehicle, and Aaron, a drawing program, were developed in the eighties and then came the most consequential periods in the history of artificial intelligence. It was the nineties that changed the world of technology.
Artificial Intelligence in Action
Artificial intelligence received a boost from the development of machine learning. Machine learning transformed scheduling, data mining, case based reasoning, multi agent planning, web crawling, virtual reality, understanding natural languages and translating the same. Artificial intelligence made its way into games and it shocked the world when a chess program defeated Garry Kasparov, the then reigning champion of the world in 1997.
Artificial intelligence has become a part of our daily lives. It has already revolutionized many industries. Smartphones are what they are because of artificial intelligence. Most of the interactive features on or in smartphones have some degree of artificial intelligence. If you delve further and consider specific applications, then the role of artificial intelligence becomes more profound and in some cases quintessential for the existence of certain features. Take smart assistants for instance. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby are developed using AI.
It is not just smart assistants or really obvious interactive features that rely on artificial intelligence. The ability of a state of the art phone camera to capture amazing portrait shots is facilitated by artificial intelligence. The chips that are used in phones and other devices these days have integrated A.I. capabilities and compatibilities. Adaptive batteries, app actions and splices are all dependent on artificial intelligence. A.I. powers drones, smart cars, various automatic features in ordinary cars, social media fees, streaming services, video games, online advertisement networks, travel and navigation, banking, finance, smart homes or home automation systems, surveillance and security, including offline and online.
How Industries are Affected by Artificial Intelligence
Every industry is getting affected by artificial intelligence in some way. A few industries are making most of it while others may not be too adaptive. Regardless of what may or may not happen in the near or distant future, one has to ascertain and understand the ripple effects of artificial intelligence that have already come to pass.
Artificial intelligence is at the crux of automation. It can perform routine tasks with much more accuracy and speed than humans. Hence, all kinds of routine tasks that can be automated are being carried out by programs powered by artificial intelligence. The banking and finance industry has been one of the earliest adapters and also beneficiaries of artificial intelligence. A.I. is at the heart of online transactions, algorithms that effectively run the stock indices and steer the economies of the world, prevention against fraud and identity theft, security for financial transactions and investment management.
Artificial intelligence is widely used in the healthcare industry. CT scans, X-rays, MRIs and various kinds of tests and screenings are now aided by A.I. Personalized diagnosis and treatment has become possible. The retail and ecommerce industry has benefited in a myriad of ways. From customer service to geo-targeting, price optimization to artificial neural networks, the effects have been multipronged and consequential. The entire technology industry is using A.I. in more than one form.
A.I. is making its presence felt in higher education. Universities are using adaptive learning technologies to simplify complex courses to prevent attrition. Machine learning enables immediate feedback. Automated text analysis programs are helping review performances of students. Artificial intelligence is now widely used in energy and utilities. Intelligent energy forecasts, digital grids, data analytics, deep learning algorithms and automation have already been adopted by many energy and utilities companies, including states and federal authorities.
The Adverse Ripple Effects of A.I. across Industries
Technology has transformed the world for the better. It has also posed existential treats for many industries, especially specific professions. Not all effects of A.I. are positive and there have been large scale ripple effects that can conservatively be described as adverse. Labor intensive industries have witnessed the sharpest adverse effects. The corporations or even private enterprises may benefit from automation but the loss of jobs is not being compensated by the creation of new jobs. Artificial intelligence is surely creating new jobs but it is not even remotely close to the loss of jobs in traditional industries.
Take agriculture for instance. There was already a shortage of labor in farms across the developed world due to a tectonic shift in preferences. People have not aspired for jobs in agriculture or to become farmers for over five decades now. Artificial intelligence can indeed help farms by taking care of tasks that can be automated. However, this does not solve the labor crisis. The entire approach to agriculture cannot be driven by artificial intelligence, at least not immediately. The advent of state of the art systems are further alienating labors from the industry and there could be a more severe crisis in the near future.
Customer service has been one of the largest industries in the world. Automation, from interactive voice response systems to personalizing customer service using the history of an individual user, has reduced the need for people in call centers, live chat support and other departments. Troubleshooting is being automated, responses are being driven by bots and even resolutions are now driven by programs aided with machine learning and data analytics. It is quite possible that the entire premise of customer experience will be attended to by artificial intelligence powered programs. Human intervention or interaction may not be warranted at all.
A.I. is a double edged sword for many industries. Energy and mining are appropriate examples. Artificial intelligence has transformed mining, exploration of oil and natural gas, logistics and more. This has also reduced the dependence on manual labor or even human computation and estimation. Programs are replacing the need to have engineers, scientists, explorers and the workers who work at the sites. Everything from conceptualization to actual exploration to eventual production is now being gradually switched to A.I. driven processes. Programs are taking care of scheduling, fusion, asset management, diagnostics, rule compliance, prognostics and autonomous operations.
These adverse effects may not be seen as undesirable from the perspective of technological advancement or evolution of our systems but they surely are when you consider the job loss and the sheer irrelevance of a human labor force in certain cases. A.I. is surely helping with complicated tasks such as real time assimilation of information pertaining to drilling, seismic vibrations, strata permeability, thermal gradients and pressure differentials in energy and mining. Such data, monitoring and failsafe measures are also helping geoscientists. However, these processes also mean there is less dependence on humans so fewer people will be willing to explore these verticals and develop actual experience. The responsibility of developing practical expertise cannot be solely bestowed on artificial intelligence. This may impair evolution of talents and skills in people.
A.I. is poised to change healthcare in ways that have only been showcased in science fiction. IT services, management, manufacturing, retail, software development, logistics including shipping, banking and finance, trade and commerce, all these industries and more are poised to undergo a sea change and the hardest hit will be the people who shall lose their jobs and possibly professional relevance in the process.
The AI Threat and How to Prepare for It
Many professions are increasingly becoming obsolete. Farmers, agricultural managers and workers, ranchers, mail sorters for postal services, carriers and couriers, clerks, sewing machine operators, switchboard operators, fast food cooks, data entry operators, typists and word processors, sales workers going door to door, street vendors and newsstands, service managers, assemblers and computers, systems or machines operators are far fewer in number today than twenty years ago.
The Most Vulnerable Jobs
To prepare for the A.I. threat, one must first realize what it is and its scope. Not every industry or profession is going to be hit in an identical manner. Some jobs will disappear, some will remain relatively safe and some new jobs will be created. Let us acknowledge the reality and accept that many jobs will become obsolete in the near future and they are already on the wane.
Telemarketers have a 99% probability of losing their jobs in the near future. Automated calls will take over. Telemarketing is not strictly sales. The level of intelligence, social and emotional engagement needed for direct sales is not required in most telemarketing campaigns. Automation is the obvious alternative and it is happening.
Bookkeeping clerks are 98% likely to lose their jobs. Many industries have already done away with bookkeeping.
Compensation managers have a 96% likelihood of losing their jobs.
Receptionists are no longer required in most scenarios.
Couriers are becoming obsolete but a fraction of the size of the workforce main remain relevant as facilitators or in some specific industries where human intervention is necessary for safe and discreet delivery. The rise of self-driving trucks is only accelerating their demise.
Proofreaders are not relevant anymore unless there is a specific literary style is the objective.
Research analysts and support specialists are going witness a sharp decline in jobs, up to 60% or more.
More than half of advertising salespeople will lose their jobs in the next ten years.
As much as 90% of the retail workforce may become redundant in years to come.
The Relatively Safer Jobs
There are many jobs that are relatively safer for now. Human resource managers, sales managers, marketing managers, public relations specialists, chief executives, event planners and organizers, writers, software developers, editors and graphic designers can breathe a sigh of relief. There is little probability of artificial intelligence replacing these professions in the immediate future. Of course there are industries and specific domains in these professions where A.I. will have a ripple effect. For instance, not all writers actually create content. Many spin existing content to create something fresh and such a task can be attended to by programs powered by artificial intelligence. Some elements of event planning or a few specializations of public relations managers may be attended to by A.I.
The Silver Lining of Artificial Intelligence
According to some estimates, artificial intelligence will create as many jobs as it destroys. CNBC published a report in July, 2018, stating that A.I. will create just over seven million jobs in the United Kingdom while destroying seven million jobs. The report estimates an addition of around two hundred thousand jobs. As per one estimate of Forbes, A.I. will create fifty eight million new jobs. What this report does not factor in is the loss of jobs and not just in the United States but across the world. Experts say that most jobs that pay less than twenty bucks an hour can be automated and hence a massive workforce is staring at a possibility of having no job at all. These jobs are not going to be replaced by artificial intelligence. The new jobs that will be created are not really for people who are presently working for less than twenty dollars an hour. The only silver lining is the scope of developing skills that will prepare people for a future where artificial intelligence is an industry in itself that is pivotal to most other industries.
New A.I. Jobs of the 21st Century
Artificial intelligence is already creating new jobs that did not exist till a few years ago. Machine learning engineer, robotic scientist and business intelligence developer are some of the more rewarding new jobs. There is a growing demand for data scientists and research scientists. People who have appropriate training and experience will definitely be in demand. Those who do not have the skills should consider upgrading their deftness in such niches.
Machine learning is going to be the next big job creator. All major tech companies and even startups are looking for machine learning engineers and analysts. A.I. requires programmers, those who are familiar with the languages. There is a demand for Python developers, data science, data visualization, R programming, data architecture, big data, internet of things and data mining.
Preparing for the A.I. Threat
The richest and the poorest countries in the world are the least vulnerable to the A.I. threat. Artificial intelligence will not have an overnight impact on all industries everywhere on the planet. The phasing out of different stages of artificial intelligence will be gradual. Some countries may even ban such technological advancements fearing the massive job loss. If a country has tens of millions of people working in manufacturing and almost ninety percent of those jobs are lost due to automation then those citizens cannot be given alternative propositions immediately. They may remain unemployed in the foreseeable future. Most of the workforce in the manufacturing industry cannot upgrade their skills to become machine learning engineers or data scientists.
The richest nations will fare alright as they already have substantial automation in many industries and also in many aspects of their personal lives. The population is much better prepared to make a more comprehensive transition to artificial intelligence. The poorest countries do not have major industries and hence the loss of millions of jobs is not really a threat. The people in such nations simply have to aspire for jobs that are available in a world where artificial intelligence is already omnipresent and omnipotent.
The A.I. threat is not homologous. There may be ripple effects in ways that cannot be imagined right now. Many skeptics such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have already warned the world about fully formed and completely autonomous or independent artificial intelligence. No one can accurately predict what kind of world we shall have if true artificial intelligence is developed that is free from all human control. We are talking about the A.I. threat strictly limited to industries, professions or jobs. Artificial intelligence may lead to loss of as much as sixty percent of all entry level, manually repetitive and low paying jobs. The scenario could be worse. Unless there is a cap on how much evolution or advancement of artificial intelligence will be permitted, it is best to endorse A.I. and explore career possibilities in the new realm.
Artificial intelligence will create new verticals, industries or sub-domains that do not exist right now. Not everything will be confined within the technological landscape. There will be technical domains related to artificial intelligence that shall create million of jobs. There will be ancillary domains too. Every industry has its core operations, primary and secondary domains, tertiary and ancillary departments. There should be cautious pragmatism and hope that artificial intelligence powered domains will also have entry level jobs and it is not just the engineers, scientists and programmers that will be in demand.
Many industries and professions are also immune to artificial intelligence. Recreational and occupational therapists, emergency management, audiologists, healthcare social workers and first line installers, repairers and supervisors are immune for the foreseeable future. Any job that requires a combination of varied physical work and distinct judgment that cannot be calibrated is also safe for now. But true artificial intelligence may threaten that too in the distant future.