The rise of the robots becomes a threat to millions of workers worldwide, especially the ones from the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. Is it possible that artificial intelligence (AI) will replace human workers soon?
Would you believe if you discover that someone can paint like the great Van Gogh? No, I’m not talking about a person who learns to imitate celebrated works of art. I’m talking about a robot or AI, whatever you call it. Do you think an AI can do the craft of painting as detailed and authentic as a human being can create? Whatever is your take, the robotic invasion could either be alarming or an advantage. You might want to ask Google’s Alexa (a robot) or Elon Musk (a human) about it.
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Five years ago, the late Stephen Hawking asserted that the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Would that mean that jobs, such as graphic designing, customer service, language teaching, or even writing, will become unavailable for humans soon? Can you even imagine that a robot is writing the one you are reading now and not the person who calls himself The Millennial Writer? How would you even know if you are talking to an AI or a human being?
Definition of Terms
Artificial Intelligence: an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. (Techopedia)
Machine Learning: a specific subset of AI that trains a machine on how to learn. (SAS Institute)
Deep Learning: the subset of machine learning composed of algorithms that permit software to train itself to perform tasks. (TIME)
Natural-Language Processing: 1. the technology used to aid computers to understand the human’s natural language. (Becoming Human) 2. It sits at the intersection of computer science, artificial intelligence, and computational linguistics. (Wikipedia)
Two Spheres of Reactions
Scientists, entrepreneurs, academics, and tech-savvies reacted differently with the advancement of AI together with its subcategories, namely: Machine Learning, Deep Learning, and Natural-Language Processing. Some personalities demonstrate fear of what robots can make while others are positive about how machines can affect human productivity for the better.
I simply call the divided spheres as The Pessimists and The Optimists. The first speaks of the individuals who develop some kind of fear of the danger robots can induce. The ones who belong to this spectrum include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and the late Stephen Hawking. At the other end of the spectrum, we can see the group of idealists who have a positive faith in the capabilities of new technologies to improve human lives. In this line of thought, we have Michio Kaku, Sam Altman, and Ray Kurzweil.
How Robots Could Possibly Replace Human Workers
Artificial intelligence, which paves the rise of the robots, becomes a powerful tool in the military and health care industry. Aside from data gathering, world powers are now developing humanoid robots to man a spacecraft, drive a war vehicle, and fight enemies themselves. Healthcare professionals are also clinging to technological innovations to develop fast and reliable ways of treating patients. Aside from a prosthetic or an AI program reading an X-ray, deep learning is now being popular in aiding the ongoing searches for drugs by studying molecules in clearer 3D images. Machine learning is also being applied in reading DNA to determine genetic futures in the struggle to fight cancer.
Today, some warehouses are already using robots (like the one on the video below) that could replace human crews in organizing items or carrying shipments in a fast and easy manner. Due to the advancement of communication gadgets and software, there is also the possibility of replacing translators, online language teachers, speech therapists, and customer service representatives. AI has also been popular in auto manufacturing, finance, insurance, oil and gas, education, and in almost every industry. By 2020, it has been predicted that the sales of cognitive software platforms will exceed $10 billion from $1 billion last 2015.
Why AI Could Not Dethrone Humans
AI, machine learning, and deep learning all depend on data. They need to be fed with a huge amount of data to learn, which is why Stanford professor Fei-Fei Li asserts, “Our goal was that big data would change the way machine learning works. Data drives learning.”
The way humans learn is different from the way robots learn. For example, when you ask Google, a lot of natural language process and machine learning methods work together to deliver the best possible answer. On the other hand, humans might be affected by a lot of factors when answering a question. Aside from retrieving information from the brain, humans also depend on his or her feeling or emotion. David Gelernter, a neurobiologist and pioneer of artificial intelligence, put it this way: “The human mind is not just a creation of thoughts and data; it is also a product of feelings. The mind emerges from a particular person’s experience of sensations, images, and ideas.”
In an interview with TIME, Murray Campbell, senior scientist of IBM, asserts that computers need to learn how to truly participate in conversations rather than just answer questions.
Robots and Humans at Work
Instead of replacing human workers with robots or AI, humans and machines can work together to achieve productivity and high-quality services. According to Pinterest data scientist Mohammad Shahangian, “Human beings remain more adept” such as in labeling photos and assessing the quality of search results. It has also been added that AI and machine learning depends on people as much as on math.
In the words of Murray Campbell, “These A.I. systems are going to have gaps. They’re going to have gaps in their knowledge for many years to come. And the practical way to fill those gaps is to partner them with humans who have general intelligence and commonsense reasoning so they can work together as a team to complement each other.”