6 Myths Surrounding Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence has long been a fascination of mankind. Now with the rapid development of capabilities within this field, it’s safe to say that as much as there are those thoroughly excited about the revolutionary impact it’ll have on our lives, there are also those that are casting a net of fear. There are countless artificial intelligence myths, but what are they?

Take Jack Ma (Alibaba founder) for example, who in June said that AI is a massive threat to jobs and he didn’t stop there, stating that he thinks it could also start WW3. The fear of job losses is prevalent in the AI conversation, a constant discussion linked to any technological advancements throughout history. Kara Swisher (Recode founder) has also agreed with Ma, telling NPR that any repetitive job is finished because it will soon be automated.

While there will certainly be some jobs that’ll become obsolete, it’s hard to imagine the new roles that will emerge from this new technological revolution, but there will be new ones rest assured.

With a number of myths surrounding AI, we’ve decided to go through a few of these misconceptions and give you some reasons as to why you shouldn’t necessarily blindly jump on the anti-AI bandwagon.

Myth 1: AI is coming for all of our jobs

The current climate in which technology, political and business commentators seem to be putting AI, Big Data, robotics, and machine learning into one big ominous melting pot is echoed by both Ma and Swisher. The main issue that people tend to be afraid of is automation and how that is going to replace all of the professionals that aren’t doing a “creative” role. Automation however is not AI, its simply computer programming.

While it’s definitely true that AI has the power to disrupt labour and it has started to in some areas, it is a complete over-simplification if you just view it as a straightforward transfer between humans and machines.

Just take a look back at historical industrial revolutions where the labour landscape underwent a massive transformation. In the 19th century there was a massive shift towards factories from agriculture and the number of jobs adjusted to that.

In regards to what some anti-AI proponents are saying about loss of employment opportunities, there really isn’t any actual evidence to suggest that. What is highly likely though, is that it’ll strengthen the economy and make us more productive by allowing us to focus our energy on other income-generating pursuits. Companies aren’t looking at leveraging AI to replace their workforce, they’re looking at ways of enabling them to work smarter and in different ways.

Myth 2: AI will become better than humans at everything

When talking about AI, the applications are split into two groups, specialised and generalised. What we have currently is specialised AI. These are the AIs that focus on one field or performing on job. These are the ones that we’ve today.

Generalised AI are those that can apply themselves to a range of different tasks like humans can. This capability is still quite a way off. While currently we may come across AIs that are better than humans on a task, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be faced with all-round AIs that’ll be essentially super-humans in the near future.

Myth 3: AI has human characteristics

AI developers leverage huge amounts of data, advanced analytics and special algorithms to create something which people believe learns on its own and understands the user. It’s people who give human characteristics to AI, like they do with a lot of other things. It’s important that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking that tech is more than it is.

Myth 4: AI is coming only for low-skilled jobs

This belief is false. Currently there are a number of AIs doing the work of what was usually reserved for only the highest trained professionals. Let’s take a look at medicine and law for example. In the medical field, machine learning algorithms already assess images (scans, x-ray) while looking for signs of disease. They are proving to be highly capable of doing it already. In the legal arena, AI is used to scan documents at what is lightning speed to underline and draw out points relevant to a case.

However, in both fields (and many, many other fields) there’s a need for both routine and “human touch” procedures. AI is here to take out the mundane tasks and allow professionals to focus on aspects that no machine can do. By efficiently removing the routine aspects of the job, professionals will have more time and it’s logical that they’ll become even more competent.

Myth 5: AI is Magic

It’s safe to say that AI is being portrayed in the media as something mystical that only the tech-giants (Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.) can aspire to. It’s simply not true and it also may be harmful. Smaller businesses need to understand AI if they are to embrace it. There’s no magic involved, AI is a combination of iteration, data, patterns and maths. What businesses need to understand when thinking about AI are the following three concepts:

Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) is a core component of AI. Machine learning are not infallible and we shouldn’t expect them to be. You’ll need a HITL workflow so humans can be resorted to when the model is low, as a machine learning model may only be accurate 70% of the time.

Training Data (TD) is the first data set the machine will learn from. The machine learning model can look for patterns from data inputs or pre-answered outputs.

Machine Learning (ML) is the software that learns patterns from training data. It does so in order to be able to apply the patterns to input new data. One central feature of ML is that it learns, it doesn’t apply fixed rules, which allows it to adjust its rules as it learns new data.

Myth 6: Robot Overlords

Finally, the sci-fi scenario in which AI evolves and enslaves humanity is also a fear being peddled in the media. With names such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Music warning of such a bleak dystopian future, it’s worth looking into it and seeing the probability of it all.

The distant future, is the distant future. Could it happen? It is a possibility, just like an alien invasion is a possibility. What AI needs to become humankind’s overlord is for society to break down a huge number of boundaries and make a myriad of allowances for it. The fear is that machines will be able to make up their own “mind” and it’s highly unlikely that anyone would build and ultimately launch a machine that has that capability. Drones and robots have been designed to detect and prevent threats and make a unilateral decision to neutralise them. However, they haven’t been deployed yet and if they were, they would most likely be met with widespread condemnation from the public.

So, this Terminator scenario is extremely unlikely and definitely not an immediate issue.

What did you think about these 6 Artificial Intelligence Myths? Have we missed any others?

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