The rise of artificial intelligence is both looked upon with great expectations and with great fear. It has also raised a lot of questions. Will AI usher in a new age of prosperity for mankind, will it herald in the beginning of the end of modern human civilization, or maybe a mix of both? What are the consequences of AI?
Automation is an effect of AI development that we can actually see in society right now. For instance, many automotive factories and other industrial plants have replaced their workers with robots that operate on the assembly lines non-stop. It’s estimated that over 670,000 jobs in the United States have been permanently lost to automation, with some estimates that by 2025, 3.4 million jobs will potentially be lost.
More recently, big companies like Tesla, GM, and Volvo have been working on self-driving cars. In the past few weeks, Volvo has entered into an agreement with Uber to supply the ride-hailing firm with a fleet of 24,000 of their self-driving cars. Uber, a company which uprooted the entire taxi industry by replacing traditional taxi drivers, has now made the transition to own and operate their own fleet. Thereby replacing many of the drivers in their own company. Lyft, Uber’s competitor, has made similar deals with Ford to incorporate self-driving cars into its fleet.
Autonomous semi-trucks are expected to hit the highways before self-driving cars. The main reason behind this is because semi-trucks are normally driven on long stretches of empty road where the conditions aren’t as chaotic as city streets. Tech start-ups and automotive companies are already well underway in testing trucks equipped with autonomous technology. The trucking industry in the U.S. accounts for nearly 9 million jobs. With the advent of autonomous trucks, the entire industry will be overhauled.
In the medical field, robotics and AI have already made significant advances. The da Vinci Surgical System was approved by the FDA in 2000 and has helped surgeons with difficult operations since then. Some medical companies are working on AI programs that can analyze X-rays better than doctors and decrease human error in patient diagnosis. Other companies have been working on online interfaces where patients enter in medical information to get a consultation, which reduces the need of even seeing a doctor in person.
The possible benefits of AI is without a doubt, tempting and lucrative. Most people can agree on the idea that when AI becomes more publicly available, it will definitively change our world. However at a certain point we have to ask ourselves just how much do we want to change and will the change be beneficial in the long run. What’s the point in being a taxi or truck driver if an AI does the job better than you? What’s the point in being a nurse or a doctor if an AI can do it better than you? In a drastic extrapolation, would we eventually have to question the point in being a human if everything we do, an AI can do better?
Sunny Zhao, a member of Biztech and the Tech Talk content team.
Dougherty, Conor. “Self-Driving Trucks May Be Closer Than They Appear.” New York Times, New York Times, 13 November 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/business/self-driving-trucks.html
Futurism. “Artificial Intelligenc in Medicine.” Futurism, Futurism, 2016, https://futurism.media/artificial-intelligence-in-medicine
Mcrae, Mike. “Unsettling New Statistics Reveal Just How Quickly Robots Can Replace Human Workers.” Science Alert, Science Alert, 31 March 2017, https://www.sciencealert.com/new-statistics-reveal-the-scale-of-robots-replacing-human-workers
Reuters. “Volvo Cars Will Supply Uber With Up to 24,000 Self-Driving Cars.” Reuters, Fortune, 20 November 2017, http://fortune.com/2017/11/20/uber-volvo-self-driving-cars/