Accelerating Development in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Impact on Jobs


In the Future of Business, Calum Chace provides great insights into how AI could evolve over the next 10-20 years. Debate is raging across the business and technology press about how far AI could develop and whether we could ever achieve Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) capable of reasoning at a similar level to humans. Some suggest the notion of SuperIntelligence that exceeds human capability could also be on the horizon. With each day that passes we see more news reports announcing the release or imminent arrival of new and ever-more capable AI developments.

There is much debate on to assess so called "machine intelligence" and compare it to human cognitive capabilities. A breakthrough has been claimed in this area - as reported by AI engineer George Zarkadakis in the Huffington Post. He explains that, to measure this "machine IQ", '...we need a new definition of intelligence that goes beyond the human - let's call it "universal intelligence". Universal intelligence could be defined in very general terms. AI researchers Shane Legg and Marcus Hutter have defined it as "the measurement of an agent's ability to achieve meaningful goals in a wide range of environments".'

A meaningful goal would be a goal that bears some significance to the agent's survival, purpose or well-being. The environmental dimension is important to include in the definition because an intelligent agent should be able to interact with a given environment and create the appropriate strategies to achieve its goal. If we accept such a general definition it follows that human intelligence is a subset of universal intelligence, and therefore machine intelligence can one day become greater that human - a very profound, and disquieting, conclusion indeed.'

Even more radical AGI developments are on the near horizon according to Marek Rosa, CEO and founder of Keen Software House, and the creator of open-world construction games Space Engineers and Medieval Engineers. He is reported to have invested $10m and spent the last year and a half developing a "human-level" machine-based AGI. Rosa claims that AGI could start to appear as a servant or partner for players of the Engineers game series. If Rosa has come anywhere close to developing true AGI then this would send shockwaves through the tech sector and lead to a major acceleration of the deployment of AI across a range of sectors and applications.

As the pace of development in AI and robotics quickens, so the debate heats up about their impact on jobs. On the one hand we see ever-bleaker forecasts and warning of the number of jobs they could replace. One panelist at the Brink 2015 conference suggested that upwards of 80 per cent of all current jobs simply wouldn't exist by 2030. However, the outlook may not be bleak as many argue that the new sectors being spawned and the opportunities created by advanced technologies will drive new waves of job creation - albeit that they may require very different skill sets. A recent survey of business and technology leaders found most were positive about AI's impact with '80 percent reporting that AI-powered technologies create jobs and improve worker performance and efficiency, while only 15 percent believe that AI eliminates jobs'. The Survey was conducted by Narrative Science as part of its 2015 State of Artificial Intelligence & Big Data in the Enterprise Report.

However we see AI its employment impact developing, what is clear that across society we need to be paying far more attention and stepping up our plans for dealing with AI:

Individuals need to think about what they would do if their job was replaced by smart systems and start developing skills that will help them find new opportunities. The emphasis should be on acquiring transferable foundation capabilities such as learning how to learn, accelerated learning, problem solving, complexity thinking and scenario planning.

The Education System needs to think hard about the skills and approaches it is teaching and ensure it is equipping students for the world they will enter not that which their parents may already be struggling in.

Governments need to take both a short and long term view about how to prepare society for the impending changes, the regulations it may want to put around AI and how to structure the economy in the face of such potentially dramatic shifts.

Businessesof every size in every sector could already be deploying forms of AI and robotics. We believe it is a priority to understand how rapidly the technologies are evolving and to have a clear policy and strategy around their deployment.

Rohit Talwar


Rohit Talwar is a UK based global futurist, strategist, innovator and change agent.

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