TL;DR: AI is coming. We’ve been hearing this claim for many years now. But you know what, this time it really is coming. And you need not be afraid. Just be prepared.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has been one of the dreams of science. It is often depicted as a major milestone of technology development and has been the subject of raging debates over the years. Movies like the Matrix trilogy, and more recently Ex Machina have painted a grim picture of how AI will look, focusing on the human-AI conflict. But as is often the case, the reality will most likely be not so extreme, at least not any time soon. We will be able to cope with it easily, but the challenge is to thrive in an AI centric world.
We will be able to cope with it easily, but the challenge is to thrive in an AI centric world.
Don’t ask when, ask how much, how soon
AI’s arrival is not an event, but a process. It has been seeping into our daily lives for many years now. Look around you:
- Thermostats now learn from you (Nest)
- Cars now steer themselves (Tesla)
- A chat app can book air tickets for you (Facebook M)
- Your smartphone now knows what to tell you and when (Google Now)
Some of these things are quite recent, but the AI revolution started much earlier, with spam filtering and handwriting recognition technology using sophisticated neural network algorithms, mimicking the human brain. Many modern software products, even some of the trivial ones, incorporate machine learning algorithms and adapt based on human interaction, including here at DrumUp.
Don’t go hide in the caves yet – The threat of AI is nothing in comparison to a nuclear holocaust
Most of AI technology being developed today is innocuous and is aimed at improving our lives. For example, autonomous vehicles will be significantly safer than human driven ones. Autonomous cars don’t drink and drive, they don’t doze off at the wheel, and they don’t have momentary lapses of concentration.
Autonomous cars don’t drink and drive
There is no doubt that many countries are trying to use AI in weapon systems. It is scary thought, but it is nothing in comparison with the threat of a nuclear holocaust, which we have been living with for decades.
Thriving in an AI-centric world – Protect your job, protect your business
The challenge however is to prosper in a world where AI is everywhere. These changes will have a huge economic impact on almost every industry. Simple example: If you are a cab driver, you should worry about autonomous taxis taking your job away. Or if you are network administrator, you should worry about learning software that can detect and fix network problems.
Many people will need to learn new skills that complement AI, not compete with it
These threats exist all the way up the corporate hierarchy. With sophisticated decision making software, even jobs of senior executives are not safe. In this scenario, many people will need to learn new skills that complement AI, not compete with it. Innovation, writing code, design, marketing – a lot of these things will coexist with all-pervasive AI.
You don’t have to hire hundreds of engineers to be prepared for AI
Just as individual jobs will get affected, businesses that do not adapt to this new environment will also perish. However, AI will also give birth to new industries and lead to new ways of doing business. As a business, you need to remain ahead of the AI adoption curve. Companies like Facebook are doing a great job at integrating AI into their products, and this is going them a huge competitive advantage against less nimble competitors.
You don’t have to hire hundreds of engineers to be prepared for AI. Understand the risks posed to your business by emergence of AI in your industry and figure out how you can mitigate those risks. More importantly, carefully evaluate the opportunities created by AI for your company and see if you can already start acting on some of them, or at least get in a state of readiness. When the crunch time comes, you will be better prepared to tweak your business model to do well in an AI world.
Vishal is a co-founder of DrumUp. You can follow him at @vdutta1