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The way we humans make and use tools sets us apart from all other species. The first stone tool can be traced back to 2.5 million years ago in East Africa. Until a few centuries ago, the extent of technology remained the same but our obsession of tools increased over time.
And why we shouldn’t obsess? Making tools is a crucial skill that defined the success of our species. From the early ages of human evolution to the current modern world, tools help us in every possible way to improve the overall quality of life.
Our tools and technology evolved dramatically during the 20th century, due to advances in medical technology, transportation, communications technology, nuclear power, space exploration, and the birth of the Digital Revolution.
In the 21st century, we have built machines that not only have their own brain but can also outsmart us. We are not dealing with dumb machines anymore which are programmed to do specific tasks – this time we are dealing with Artificial Intelligence which will learn from our mistakes and identify patterns from enormous data, in a way that’s beyond human capability.
Video* how google deepmind beat world’s no.1 Go player
Google’s AlphaGo achieved this by studying the moves of human experts and reinforcement learning (playing against itself). The new AlphaGo Zero trained itself entirely on reinforcement learning and thrashed the older AlphaGo by 100 games to zero.
Though the field of AI is also coined in the 20th century when a handful of computer scientist met at Dartmouth Conference in 1956. But it exploded since 2015, because of the rise of faster, cheaper and powerful processing power, infinite storage capacity, the flood of data and advances in deep learning (a subset of Machine Learning, which is a subset of AI).
Let’s look at the advances of Artificial Intelligence in four major industries:
Manufacturing Industry will have the biggest impact of AI coupled with automation.
AI is playing a vital role in improving enterprise software. Right from Predictive maintenance & optimization of industrial facilities and Machines, Interpreting the data that flow across departments, Improving material management and the list goes on and on.
Robots already have a significant presence in Manufacturing automation and it seems to increase further. Changying Precision Technology, a China-based mobile phone manufacturer had 650 human workers. After the recent AI automation, the factory is run by 60 workers and 60 robot arms that work round the clock, which led to 250% increase in productivity and 80% drop in defects. This clearly makes a case for AI automation.
In 2013, Google acquired 8 robotics companies in roughly six months and that’s said to be the heart of Google’s moonshot program. Clearly, Google is not only developing its own software but also hardware to make the final product more compatible and robust. This gives a hint of creating much more advanced robots over a decade.
Japan is also investing a lot to build 30 million robots, as a workforce that can make Japan the number one manufacturer again.
The quest for driverless cars began during the 1970s, however, it never turned into reality until the development of high processing power, cloud computing, GPS and Artificial intelligence. While fully autonomous vehicles are still not out in the market yet, Auto giant BMW claims that their futuristic autonomous ‘i-Next car’ will hit the showrooms within four years.
Toyota also revealed a new self-driving concept car with an AI companion named ‘Yui’. It will not only know your driving habits and the roads traveled so far but also tells your emotional experience during the ride.
It will act as your co-pilot, a travel guide, and spa attendant (the driver’s seat actually gives a back massage) according to Darrell Etherington at Techcrunch. This gives a glimpse of the future of AI companion though as per Toyota, self-driving is still a long way off.
And these are not the only players, companies like Tesla, Google, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford are investing billions of dollars in building semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles.
The front-runner in autonomous cars, Google’s Waymo announced recently that company’s autonomous cars have driven 3 million miles on public roads, in which 1 million miles are achieved in just 7 months. Seems like driver-less cars are not a distant dream anymore.
According to Tractica, AI hardware, software, and services revenue in the automotive industry will rise from $404 million in 2016 to $14.0 billion by 2025.
An interesting trend we can see in the healthcare industry is the entry of digital technology companies like Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Apple. They bid to transform the industry with mining medical records to provide better and faster health services.
IBM Watson for instance, first derives the meaning and context of the structured (such as clinical notes) and unstructured data (relevant reports) that might be critical for selecting a treatment plan. And then, combine different attributes from patient’s medical record to identify potential treatment plan for a particular patient. In short, it works like a human doctor.
And as stated by the famous American physician and co-founder of renowned Mayo Clinic, William J. Mayo – “The aim of medicine is to prevent disease and prolong life, the ideal of medicine is to eliminate the need of a physician.”
Though as of now, the focus of Artificial intelligence is more on empowering physicians rather than replacing them. Looking at the medical AI ecosystem, we can see that much of the work is going on in Prediction and prevention, wellness, aging, rehabilitation and technological augmentation of doctors.
Out of 218 health care AI startups, 54 are involved in predictive medicine and 21 develop wellness applications (prevention). Wellness is the fastest growing segment in healthcare value chain.
With the advancements in smart machines, healthcare industry is expected to be the fastest growing industry in data generation. According to Cisco, global machine to machine connection in healthcare is at 30% CAGR, which is the highest compared to any industry.
Tech giant IBM is trying to get hold of more and more healthcare data. It has recently partnered with Medtronic for diabetes & insulin data and acquired four healthcare companies including Explorys, Phytel, Merge healthcare and Truven Health. IBM has collected an unparalleled body of diverse health-related data, including 300 million records spanning clinical, claims, and operational data.
AI and ML are also helping in medical imaging, Drug discovery, Medication management and robotic surgery.
The da Vinci surgical robot is designed to assist in complex surgery using its dexterous robotic limbs.
The rapid growth of Algorithmic trading has proven the success of AI automation. AI-driven automated trading accounts for 75% of all financial market volume, which gives you an idea of its presence on the trading floor.
Now machine learning is helping major banks in cutting down the time spent on many mundane tasks such as interpreting commercial-loan agreements. The tasks which used to take several thousand hours yearly is now a matter of seconds.
Top Bank like JP Morgan is not only reducing the time spent on reviewing documents but also managed to decrease its loan servicing mistakes; it saves a lot of time and money.
Not only that, ML will be helpful in the insurance sector as well, by improving customer experience through chatbots, predictive analysis for products needed by the customer as per their life stages and life events, mobile app to track spending behavior and saving pattern, reducing claim processing time and much more.
The list of AI’s application in every industry can be endless, that’s why every fortune 500 company is investing heavily in automation.
Till now we have only discussed the fair applications of AI. Though, the wrong application of AI can be even more dangerous, especially in sectors like Arms Industry. Experts suggest that the involvement of Autonomous weapons in armed conflicts can be equally hazardous as a Nuclear weapon. What if, a tyrant or terrorist group will use it against innocent people or these weapons will be hacked and can’t be controlled in a desirable way.
Well, the right step is already been taken by a group of AI and robotics leaders including Elon Musk and Google Deepmind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman. The founders of 116 AI and robotics companies from 26 countries have signed a petition to the United Nations calling for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons a.k.a. killer robots.
The letter also gives a warning that delay in appropriate action will start an ‘arms race’, which arguably has already begun. Countries like USA, China, Russia, and Israel are currently developing these lethal weapons. These autonomous weapon systems are also available with companies such as Raytheon, Dassault, MiG, and BAE Systems.
Though, 123 nations agree to talk on ways to check the development of autonomous weapons – discussion of the UN weapons group which was scheduled for August is delayed until November.
At the advent of Fourth Industrial revolution, we have created a very powerful brain in machines – but it’s not the case where we will reap only benefits – this will be one of the biggest impacts on employment till date.
According to one study, 57% of world’s jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation and as per the study conducted by Oxford University and the Oxford Martin School, in the US alone, job loss to automation could be 47% in the next 20 years.
Automation is inevitable and it will transform the entire systems of production, management, and governance. It’s time for all of us to think of a higher purpose in our life and career. Think and do things which no machine can do. Be human, be creative, be hungry and be foolish.
The story so far is fascinating! From the first stone tool to Artificial intelligence, it’s been one hell of a ride, and the journey ahead seems promising though it will be full of twist and turns.