How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Might Disrupt Global Economies by 2030
Stanford’s study investigates how, over the next 15 years, AI tech will make inroads in every area of our lives, from education to entertainment, and from healthcare to security.
A recent Artificial Intelligence report from experts at Stanford University concluded that “increasingly useful applications of AI, with potentially profound positive impacts on our society and economy are likely to emerge between now and 2030”.
Thanks to pop-culture and science fiction, we have been led to believe that one day, machines endowed with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will match, or even surpass, human intelligence.
The recently published Stanford University-hosted report: Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030, has concluded that in fact, “there is no race of superhuman robots on the horizon or probably even possible.” However, according to the report, a year-long investigation which is the first of a series of reports to be published at regular intervals as part of a 100-year study on AI reveals: “in reality, AI is already changing our daily lives, almost entirely in ways that improve human health, safety, and productivity.”
“Specialised AI applications will become both increasingly common and more useful by 2030, improving our economy and quality of life…But, this technology will also create profound challenges, affecting jobs and incomes and other issues that we should begin addressing now to ensure that the benefits of AI are broadly shared.” – Peter Stone, chair, Stanford University 100 Year Study on Artificial Intelligence
Computer vision and AI planning, for example, drive the video games that are now a bigger entertainment industry than Hollywood, notes the report. Deep learning, a form of machine learning based on layered representations of variables referred to as neural networks, has made speech-understanding possible on our phones and in our kitchens, and its algorithms can be applied to many apps that rely on pattern recognition.
Natural language processing, and knowledge representation and reasoning, according to the report, have enabled a machine to beat a Jeopardy champion and are bringing new power to Web searches. Future uses of AI, which will require years of specialised research, include more self-driving cars, healthcare diagnostics and targeted treatments, and physical assistance for the elderly.
A definition of AI
In 1955, John McCarthy, an American computer and cognitive scientist, coined the term AI defining it as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”.
According to the report, Nils J. Nilsson, a professor of engineering in the department of computer science at Stanford University and one of the founding researchers in the discipline of AI, has provided a useful definition of AI: “Artificial Intelligence is that activity devoted to making machines intelligent, and intelligence is that quality that enables an entity to function appropriately and with foresight in its environment.”
AI adopts an interdisciplinary approach. Other than computer science, AI also relies on subjects like maths, psychology, linguistics, philosophy and neuroscience. Its growth has been triggered by the development of machine learning, stimulated partly by the rise of the digital economy, which both provides and leverages large amounts of data, according to the report. Other factors include the rise of cloud computing resources and consumer demand for widespread access to services such as speech recognition and navigation support.
According to the report: “Machine learning has been propelled dramatically forward by impressive empirical successes of artificial neural networks, which can now be trained with huge data sets and large-scale computing. This approach has come to be known as ‘deep learning’. The leap in the performance of information processing algorithms has been accompanied by significant progress in hardware technology for basic operations such as sensing, perception, and object recognition. New platforms and longer term AI may be thought of as a radically different mechanism for wealth creation in which everyone should be entitled to a portion of the world’s AI-produced treasures.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Microsoft has formed a Microsoft AI and Research Group, bringing together over 5000 computer scientists and engineers focused on the company’s AI product efforts. Several of Microsoft’s engineering leaders and teams will join the newly formed group, which will encompass AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs, and New Experiences and Technologies. The new unit will help Microsoft focus on empowering both people and organisations, by democratising access to intelligence to help solve society’s most pressing challenges, and will see Microsoft infusing AI into everything the company delivers across its computing platforms and experiences.
What the AI report says
The report investigates eight domains of human activity in which AI technologies are beginning to affect urban life in ways that will become increasingly pervasive and profound by 2030. These domains include: Home/service robots, healthcare, education, low-resource communities, public safety and security, employment and workplace, and entertainment.
Here are some of the key findings:
- Autonomous cars, trucks and, possibly, aerial delivery vehicles may alter how we commute, work and shop, and create new patterns of life and leisure in cities.
- Home/service robots like robotic vacuum cleaners already in some homes and specialised robots will clean and provide security in living/work spaces. They will be equipped with sensors and remote controls.
- Healthcare devices to monitor personal health and robot-assisted surgery are hints of things to come if AI is developed in ways that gain the trust of doctors, nurses, patients and regulators.
- Interactive tutoring systems already help students learn languages, math and other skills. More is possible if technologies like natural language processing platforms develop to augment instruction by humans.
- The conjunction of content creation tools, social networks and AI will lead to new ways to gather, organise and deliver media in engaging, personalised and interactive ways.
- Investments in uplifting technologies like predictive models to improve food distribution could spread AI benefits to the underserved.
- Cameras, drones and software to analyse crime patterns should use AI in ways that reduce human bias and enhance safety without loss of liberty or dignity.
- Work should start now on how to help people adapt as the economy undergoes rapid changes as many existing jobs are lost and new ones are created.
How will AI disrupt the economy?
- The impact on jobs
The rise of AI will lead to certain jobs being replaced by automation software or robots, which will increase the wealth gap. Will Lee, who studied AI at Stanford, and founded Verlocal, an online platform where people can monetise what they love doing, stresses that as technology advancements are evolving rapidly, so too must humans. Lee’s theory of an Open-Resource Economy aims to empower individuals to monetise their creativity and available resources to add value to society and their communities. He points to the fact that people value handmade items like art, furniture and fashion, for example, more than manufactured items. His call is for people to focus more on developing their skills, creating new services, and expanding their businesses to include teaching, selling handmade products, and services. This way, he maintains, humans will be able to create value long after AI has changed the economy.
- The benefits of open source AI
Big businesses have big budgets and access to technology that small competitors cannot match. However, open-source versions of AI and funding for AI start-ups, which are both becoming increasingly available, could help to ensure that the next great disruption to the economy benefits more than just those who are already wealthy.
- AI and human communication
Although AI technologies remove the need for people to perform repetitious tasks and can communicate on our behalf, the need for people to interact in real life will never go away. The prediction is that AI may finally give us the freedom to step away from our computers and engage in real world interactions.
- Start conversations about ways AI-enhanced technologies might be shaped to improve life and societies.
- Individuals need to ensure they focus on education and realising their business potential so that we can begin building an innovative, sustainable market to prepare for upcoming changes.
- AI is unlikely to ever replace unique individuals’ intangible assets. We need to create new opportunities for people to monetise their skills based on their passions.