16 May Hi, AI
By Pierre Herubel & Carolyne Grat
16 May 2019
Artificial intelligence is a subject at once technological, philosophical and societal that is likely to upset our lives in the coming years. So, are you for or against it? Digital Lifestyle looks at technological innovations and their impact on our lifestyles, then asks you for your opinion.
Through his efforts to reproduce an intelligence in his image, man is trying to fulfill a promethean dream that would leave its mark in history. From a philosophical point of view, it is therefore a considerable phenomenon, whose impact on our lives in the coming years we need to question.
But what exactly is artificial intelligence? The Larousse dictionary defines this innovation as “a set of theories and techniques used to create machines capable of simulating human intelligence.” In recent years, its evolution has been exponential, boosted by huge investments and by the development of technologies such as machine learning, or automatic learning, which allows an AI to improve its performance by itself by analyzing new data.
Liberation or alienation?
In our modern societies, the pace of life is constantly accelerating, and we are perpetually on a quest to save more time. In such hectic lives, being faced with constraints is decidedly out of fashion, a feeling that is further reinforced by new technologies. AI contributes to this by managing the repetitive, difficult and uninteresting tasks of our daily lives. Ordering a taxi in 3 clicks and then a meal in 2 scrolls has become now the norm. But, is the end of our constraints proving itself to be liberating, or does it portend a new kind of alienation for man?
If we look at the world of work, every analysis leads us to think that we are moving towards profound changes. In fact, while the robotization of industries in the primary and secondary sectors already started some time ago, automation is now also intensifying in the tertiary sector: lower costs, productivity gains, cost controls and optimization of margins have all combined to make enterprises converts to the idea. According to Cap Gemini Consulting, the use of AI could, for example, bring $512 billion to the banking industry by 2020.
In principle, cutting jobs can lead to the creation of new ones; out with the traders, in with the financial engineers. But the difficulty remains to estimate how many jobs will disappear in this way. Thus, if governments do not take action to stem this new unemployment, what will be the solution? The answer, according to some AI advocates, would be based on some form of universal income. By giving a basic salary to everyone, we would ensure a transition to the “end of work” model developed by essaying Jeremy Rifkin.
AI Is Already Here
But, while we wait for the end of work and chores, we already all use AI. Especially when we surf on the Internet. The iconic example of this is the chatbot, which intelligently answers customers and manages sales without human intervention. According to Gartner, 85% of customer relations will be operated by chatbots by 2020. But the real world will also see the onslaught of artificially intelligent robots.
In 2012, Japanese giant SoftBank bought French robotics company Aldebaran to create Softbank Robotics. A market leader, the company is developing both NAO, for programming, Romeo, for personal assistance and Pepper, a customer relations specialist. On the military side, Boston Dynamics (also from the SoftBank group) is developing impressive quadripods such as Bigdog or Atlas.
In the transportation sector, Waymo, Uber and Tesla are forcing traditional automakers into a race for the autonomous cars, already allowed on some roads in California.
In terms of logistics, Amazon and Alibaba are competing to revolutionize delivery methods. The prize for the most insane project goes to Amazon, which would like to place giant balloons in the sky filled with goods ready to be delivered by drones. This would facilitate air delivery and allow flying crafts to be closer to delivery points. It may seem inconceivable, but the head of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, patented this technology as early as 2016.
Even restaurants are not immune to this phenomenon: China is a forerunner here, with establishments such as Hai Di Lao Hot Pot restaurants fully operated by robots. In the hotel industry, Tencent has developed a partnership with the Shangri La hotel chain to roll out its“Cloud Smart Hotel” solution to improve customer experience and service.
Even if we are still quite far from the famous “singularity,” essentially the moment at which machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, AI is becoming a reality and is already being implemented by American, Chinese and Japanese companies. Public organizations, at least in the West, are making very little use of it so far. Our governments will have to ensure the transition by framing the uses of AI, in order to avoid completely dismantling our societies, which are today based on work and human interactions.
And you, what do you think about artificial intelligence? We invite you to discuss these issues among yourselves, or by visiting our Latitudes’ Facebook page to continue the debate…
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