Artificial Intelligence in 2017: Expands Capabilities, but Impacts the Workforce

Artificial-Intelligence-SinequaThe beginning of the new year is a good time to reflect on the events of 2016 and on their forebodings for the coming year and beyond.There has no doubt been a great deal of buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) this year. However, it’s difficult to sort through what’s hype and what’s not to determine where these technologies will actually take us in 2017. While we know the trend will continue in some form, what will be new or different next year? Here are some of my predictions: 

Artificial Intelligence is taking the industry by storm, and not just in “Westworld.” We’re entering a new phase of AI thanks to advances in computing power and volume of data. This has opened the door to solve computational problems on a scale that no human mind could approach – even in a lifetime. The result is that computers are now able to provide responses that aren’t dictated by a collection of “if A, then B” rules, offering results that can only be explained by saying that the computer “understands.” The benefit is that complex and time-consuming cognitive processes can now be automated, and we can do things at scale that were previously impossible because unlike humans, computers are not overwhelmed by volume.

We’re definitely headed in the direction of workforce displacement and I believe it’s going to happen quickly, as there are huge economic incentives to increase efficiency and to automate manual tasks. This will happen faster than we expect because we think linearly, while technology is advancing exponentially. We struggle with that perspective because it quickly outpaces what we can readily grasp, whether that be in size or speed, or both. This will bring additional challenges because the disruption will occur across the occupational spectrum (unlike the industrial revolution, which primarily impacted “low-skill” jobs). I don’t see any particular sector being hit by this tidal wave in 2017, but AI is a disruptor like we’ve never seen before and it will be here soon whether we are ready for it or not.

However, with this transformation, tasks that have been impractical because of the time/labor involved now become feasible, which means we’ll be able to do things we haven’t been able to do before. It will also free us from many mundane and repetitive tasks, enabling people to focus on new or more valuable activities. This will increase efficiency in the workplace as well as consistency, which will improve quality and safety. So while the workforce will look very different from how it looks today – certainly in 10 years and probably in five, AI and ML are going to greatly extend and expand our capabilities in ways that, for now, we can only imagine.

What are your predictions for 2017 and beyond? For a full list of my predictions on AI other topics such as machine learning and big data, check out my post in VMblog.

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