AI and us: Threat to humanity or a perfect partnership?

  • Posted on July 19, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

Although we currently rely on real people to act as a point of reference, AI is on the rise in the decision-making field. One of the reasons is so-called ‘deep learning’. Here, an output is produced, but the logic used ‘behind the scenes’ cannot be reproduced nor traced. Consequently, it is extremely difficult for human beings to determine whether the conclusions we are faced with are sound, or ethical. This is a topic of concern in the entire data and AI community, not just at Avanade. Across the globe, efforts are ongoing to gain more insight into the drivers of various conclusions made by AI.

Will AI make people stop talking to one another?
Human interaction will not stop, but it will evolve. Just think back to the introduction of email. It was suggested people would stop communication and would only connect through email. Obviously, this has not happened. Although everybody sends emails, plenty of human interaction is still required, simply because it is important to humans. When something is no longer needed, this does not mean it is no longer liked, or even preferred.

“AI will never cause human interaction to stop, but it will evolve.”

I do believe the boundaries of what we now call ‘human communication’ will be fading. It remains to be seen how people will react to, for instance, a system that sounds like a real person. At Avanade, we provide solutions for call centers, where a machine using a human voice can appropriately answer common questions. I am convinced humans will never be completely obsolete in interactions, but AI can help alleviate us from the most monotonous, mundane, repetitive tasks.

People will always be needed in some capacity, though it might require revisiting certain patterns, and rethinking existing methods. Change is always met with a degree of resistance, but we should remember it brings about a myriad of new opportunities. This is also the case when it comes to artificial intelligence.

“Humans will never be obsolete,
but AI can alleviate us from the most monotonous, mundane tasks.”

Is AI a threat to people’s jobs?
AI will undoubtedly have an impact on the job market. However, when it comes to the future of work, people’s jobs will change, rather than disappear. AI cannot replace humans, but creates new ways of working, and, therefore, new tasks that need to be executed by human beings. Consider, for instance, repetitive tasks such as scanning a form, running it through a system, putting it in a folder, reading it, deciding which customers it concerns, et cetera.

All these tedious, time-consuming, error-prone activities can be automated thanks to AI. This gives people in business the unique opportunity to rethink their operational activities, and perhaps assign employees to tasks there was no time – or money, for that matter – for previously. In the end, I do not think the job market will shrink. There most likely will be a transition period, during which some people will possibly lose their job if they cannot, or do not have the possibility, to adapt. At the same time, new jobs will be created as there is always more business to do.

Will everyone benefit from AI?
Another major concern when it comes to AI are the possible disadvantages wealth inequality might bring along. People fear the gap between rich and poor, between higher educated people and those lacking education, will have an impact on who will benefit from AI and who will not. As I see it, things are quite different: AI will be part and parcel of everything we do. Everybody on this planet will benefit from AI. People do not ‘use’ AI, but AI is ‘put to use’, for all of us.

At Avanade, for example, we implement AI for our clients, and they can be anyone. Our goal is simply to help them in their businesses. In this context, AI will benefit everybody, and will not increase the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Why we shouldn’t be afraid of AI
I strongly believe that what is new should not necessarily be feared. I am not denying that certain risks may be involved when introducing never-before-seen technology or processes – just think of the very first experiments with gunpowder. However, I would insist on the introduction of a solid framework, especially concerning ethics. Once a business has an AI strategy in place with a clear focus on the ethical side, AI should not be considered a threat. This way, we can continue increasing businesses’ efficacy, and creating a better workplace for their employees.

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