ZEITGUIDE TO THE AI IMPERATIVE
Each day brings a new barrage of headlines on blockchain advances, voice assistants and an endless list of latest, cutting edge technologies. But from our vantage point, the biggest tech story of the year for every business leader to know and understand is the growing ability and impacts of artificial intelligence.
It’s a topic that raises a lot of mixed feelings, fear being a primary one. The robots are coming for our jobs, we’ve been warned. And who can blame anyone for seeing a new development like a robot from Boston Dynamics running through an obstacle course and then envisioning the rise of the machines just around the corner.
So, just how worried should we be about the growing use of AI and what can we do to be better prepared?
“There’s no question in my mind that a number of jobs will be lost not because the computers take them, but because the computers enhance the productivity of an elite few who have chosen to become great human-machine partners,” tech consultant and business adviser Shelly Palmer told us. “And they are going to be able to outproduce, outwork and outperform.”
The Information’s Sam Lessin describes this human-machine combination as the “knowledge-work cloud.” This, he argues, will enable people to outsource to machines the work they least enjoy, or are not particularly good at, and “focus people on the types of human work they are in particular best at.”
So how do you get the machines to work for you and not the other way around? Palmer says the only way is to be hands on with it. Start playing with the tools that are already out there, no PhD in computer science required. There are a host of organizations, such as fast.ai, ai4all and deeplearning.ai, offering online coursework for those who have never worked with this technology before.
Getting a greater diversity of people working in AI will be absolutely critical to enabling it to do the most good. Amazon recently scrapped an AI tool it had developed to vet resumes for job candidates when it turned out it had an implicit bias against women. The existing gender imbalance among Amazon applicants had taught the program that male candidates were preferable.
As our CEO Brad Grossman wrote back in 2016 for The Wall Street Journal, AI is not a cure-all for our biases. Rather, it reinforces them. “If algorithms learn from users, but the users are mostly men, what are the machines learning?” Grossman wrote.
To read even more on the direction of this technology and review where we began the conversation in 2018, check out our distillation of the most intriguing innovations to track in every industry to start the year in the chart below. And stay tuned for the latest AI developments to know with our coming Q4 digest.
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