Humankind has been long fascinated with the concept of machine learning or artificial intelligence. Vast literature and artwork have been created to express the idea that one day, machines will develop their own sense of learning and process information by themselves, without the need for constant human programming.
Movies like “Tobor the Great” (1954), “The Terminator” (1984), “A.I.” (2001), “iRobot” (2004), and “Transcendence” (2014) featured these futuristic technologies where computers/robots even get to acquire the cognitive ability of man, nay, even at some point surpass it beyond belief.
Believe it or not, these technologies exist now. Since its public breakthrough in 2012, artificial intelligence (AI) has since began to spread in the commercial sphere to further streamline business processes, boost product functionality, and aid in customer services.
AI has done this through its deep learning capability. Deep learning is a concept where a computer network can learn unsupervised from unstructured data — where information is made available in the raw and not fixed in a determinable code, structure, or string. This deep learning capability allows the computer to gather, process, and react to information gathered from inputs, the internet, and the results of its own operations.
Today, AI is being used for advertisements where analysis is done on each user’s preferences and broadcasts advertisements based on previous purchases, websites frequently visited, the user’s usual whereabouts, and alike. The technology even moves to cross-device integration where information in one of the user’s device can now be synced with other devices to provide the user with 24/7 personalized functionality. This means that music in the user’s laptop may be synced to his/her phone which automatically plays the right kind of music to match the activity or fitness goal of the user as derived from the wearable fitness gadget (i.e. Fitbit, see previous article on this) he/she is using. It even arches to the point of customer service where the seller can service more clients quickly and more accurately — without even having the user notice that he/she is talking to a computer (we can talk about self-driving vehicles and facial recognition next time).
On the flip side, business enterprises are now using the same technology to boost productivity, efficiency, and savings. Data analysis have since evolved to smart know-your-client (KYC) protocols, more efficient procurement systems, and supply/product tracking.
Basically, it may seem that AI removes the human factor in the process. All these automation and “computerization” of things may appear as a threat to the human capital — which explains the slow acceptance of this technology. The idea sounds both profound and, yes, scary. I remember that just the other day, one of my students asked me about the possibility of AI replacing human workforce and what the corresponding legal implications. I did respond by saying that there is that possibility of replacement as it may be used a “labor-saving device” and thus, an authorized cause for the dismissal of employees.
On the contrary, however, I see that using AI and human labor is actually the best combination in any growing enterprise. I believe that this business platform nurtures true growth in the workplace where the repetitive and time-consuming tasks may now be delegated to an AI and have the human capital really work on capitalizing on his/her talents towards true development.
While there are always pros and cons to this technology — just like anything out there, what is easily perceived are the possible challenges this technology may. Matters such as cost of running the system, time needed for familiarization, and the need to always have a special team to manage the AI and “teach” its neural network to function the way it should be (cue: Skynet from the movie “Terminator”). I would say, however, that there are numerous upsides that outweigh the costs such as raising the quality of information processing time and output (almost error-free), the speed at which the AI can learn how to perform its job, no rest periods or sudden vacation trips, and virtually lowering the overall costs of operation due to more efficient use of resources in information processing.
At the end of the day, be it a robot that eventually becomes a friend, a machine that protects us from danger, or a computer having the ability to store our “mind and soul” in a digital platform, the highly technological world portrayed in movies is now indeed a reality. The question now lies if our laws are ready to accept or are they still applicable in a world where some rights, acts, and expressions can now be executed and enjoyed by non-human entities powered by artificial intelligence — not to mention considering the societal and moral role which this technology may eventually take up in the near future. What is certain is that the next few years will really open up possibilities that may even challenge the role of people both in and out of the business sphere.