The robots are coming – so what?

What’s the fuss about artificial intelligence?
Rather than being seen as a threat, artificial intelligence should be seen as a force for good, which helps humans solve complex problems. Picture: Shutterstock

This article was first published in the September issue of the Moneyweb Investor. Click here to read the magazine in full, at no cost to your pocket.

If Elon Musk is to be believed, the untempered development of artificial intelligence (AI) poses an existential threat to the survival of the human race. 

He along with the likes of Steven Hawkings raised concerns some two years ago about the world’s seeming headlong rush to research and develop AI technologies.

But recent AI developments seem to have freaked him out further. Most notable was an event in June where an AI system beat the world Go champion. Now Go is an ancient strategy game that is so complex it was believed a computer would never master it. The computer won the game in the 37th round by making a decision based on what some experts call human intuition.

In reality it was not intuition: although the computer only executed one option per move (obviously) it processed the learning of each possible alternative, thus becoming exponentially more intelligent as the game progressed. The computer won the game by making a move that had never been seen before.

It is not difficult to see why this feeds into fears that it’s simply a matter of time before the robots come for us all.

Yet while Musk’s views on the potential negative consequences of AI are well documented, he himself is driving the development of cutting edge AI, from Tesla’s self-driving cars to SpaceX’s rocket engineering, with absolutely no intention of slowing down. The same can be said of Facebook, Google and IBM.

It is clear that there are many people, not just Musk who believe AI will change the future of the world. This is being made possible by improved algorithms, access to growing data sets, ubiquitous network access, massive storage capacity and exponential computing power. With change comes risk. 

All fear mongering does is sow panic in groups of people who are unfamiliar with the technology and this is never constructive. AI (also known as deep learning or machine learning) is developing at breakneck speed, and the genie, I believe, is well out of the bottle.

Rather than letting loose an army of mutant robots on us, AI can be a force for good. Educating the public about what it actually is and does is the first step in managing the risk.  

The colloquial definition of AI is where “a machine mimics the cognitive function of the human mind such as learning and problem solving”. AI draws on subjects like computer science, maths, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and neuroscience and has been around since the 1950s.

While driverless cars and chess games attract media attention, data scientists are quietly using AI to build predictive models to avoid Zika outbreaks, identify infant birth asphyxia, detect online and cross border sex trafficking and prevent the extinction of bees. AI is also a key enabler behind many of the changes that technology is introducing in classrooms, as we discuss in this article.

Its uses are also far more prosaic. For instance, AI is already influencing your buying decisions, hiring and career decisions, and arguably even influences the way you manage your friendships (by profiling certain people on social media).

This might all sound ghastly, but the solution is to be aware of how the world around us is being shaped. Be aware that advertising is very often tailored to your specific likes; that certain careers are being made redundant by computers and that Facebook is managing your friendships.

On another subject entirely, you will notice that The Moneyweb Investor is back! We listened to our readers and are publishing a shorter, sharper version of the original on a fortnightly basis. The publishing platform is different too, making it easier to navigate, download, print and share stories.

Please consider contributing as little as R20 in appreciation of our quality independent financial journalism.

AUTHOR PROFILE

COMMENTS   0

You must be signed in to comment.

SIGN IN SIGN UP

LATEST CURRENCIES  

USD / ZAR
GBP / ZAR
EUR / ZAR

The Budget Speech explained
Moneyweb’s 2020 national budget offering, including infographics and audio ratings, as well as past budget coverage....

The Investor Issue 48
Separating out the noise from useful information in the markets is not easy. The trick to staying the course is to keep an eye on ...

The Investor Issue 47
Some people intuitively understand that investing for future gain is a long-term process that cannot be rushed. The management of ...

The Investor Issue 46
While US innovation soars and its tech listings continue at a ferocious pace, SA has no real plan for how to embrace the 4th Indus...

The Investor Issue 45
As the investment world falls more and more in love with the simplicity that ETF investing offers, index providers are realising t...

The Investor Issue 44
Company financial statements are the last line of defence for investors wanting to protect their investments. But these cannot alw...

The Investor Issue 43
What makes one CEO great and another mediocre? The Moneyweb Investor ponders this and other leadership questions in the latest iss...

The Investor Issue 42
Stagnant economic growth and questionable economic policy is hampering the development of mid-sized - and investible - businesses ...

The Investor Issue 41
If you are one of those people who invests more energy into your credit card or medical aid rewards programme than you do your ret...

The Investor Issue 40
Volatility in global markets is higher than it has been in years, giving investors the jitters. Some 'experts' are suggesting a re...

The Investor Issue 39
From lessons from Buffet to building your own crypto-portfolio (a risky endeavour by anyone's standards), this issue of The Moneyw...

The Investor Issue 38
They say the art of investing is to ignore the short-term noise and focus on attaining long-term goals. That's true, but that does...

The Investor Issue 37
Getting the economy on the correct footing requires that everyone pulls their weight. Our writers this month have gone above and b...

The Investor Issue 36
The past year is littered with train wrecks like Steinhoff, SAA and Eskom. But there is real sense of ‘back to business’ in So...

The Investor Issue 35
Stock markets are soaring, but productivity is not. Innovation continues, but leads to fewer new jobs. And the great and the good ...

The Investor Issue 34
South Africans are fed up with corruption, or anything that has even a whiff thereof, as JSE rockstar Naspers is currently experie...

The Investor Issue 33
As the year races towards its close, investors will be forgiven for feeling a little breathless. The British WWII propaganda phras...

The Investor Issue 32
Anyone would think that getting an economy moving is rocket science. It's actually not. It requires single-minded commitment. Whil...

The Investor Issue 31
We examine the opportunities of forex trading, the best unit trusts, e-commerce at Richemont and more. ...

The Investor Issue 30
Despite what the astrologers say, there are no shortcuts when it comes to successful stock picking. Fundamental analysis counts. T...

INSIDER SUBSCRIPTIONS APP VIDEOS RADIO / LISTEN LIVE SHOP OFFERS WEBINARS NEWSLETTERS TRENDING PORTFOLIO TOOL CPD HUB

Follow us:

Search Articles: Advanced Search
Click a Company: