The concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at least five decades young now; it was an epochal incubation period which has now metamorphosized into a new dawn, something which is going to totally redefine how we exist in this universe. Mankind is now going into a leap of extraordinary proportions. While every previous leap was fuelled by human intelligence, this one is going to be driven by Artificial Intelligence.
It would manifest in a massive expansion of Human Intelligence itself, realizing the potential bestowed by nature, so far unexplored. As a consequence, there will be fundamental changes in how we live, how we work or do business and how we solve problems big and small. Many intractable problems which have defied solutions for centuries may now appear insignificant. On the flip side, new challenges would definitely surface as always happens whenever a revolution begins.
The potential of AI was evident as early as the 1990s when IBM developed a chess computer called Deep Blue. Till then, it was inconceivable that a computer could ever defeat a human chess champion. But then it happened, in 1997, Deep Blue defeated the world chess champion GM Gary Kasparov. It was a testament to the rise of AI, a victory for machines versus mankind. Deep Blue could analyse up to 200 million positions per second, a mind-boggling number at that time. Its search algorithms were adopted and enhanced by computer search engines later.
AI was making smooth progress but on 30 November 2022, a seminal event happened; Chat GPT (Generative Pretrained Transformer) a large language model, trained by AI was unveiled. This conversational chatbot has more than 100 million active users within the first two months. GPT-4, its newest Open AI model was recently released on 14 March 2023. It accepts inputs in the form of texts as well as images and can provide outputs in both forms while being adept in about 25 languages.
This chatbot can answer test questions, write essays, write and debug computer programs, play games, the author plays, compose music and even write poetry. The fact that it is continuously learning, adapting and improving its performance marks the unlimited potential of AI. This is not an enthusiastic chatter about Chat GPT but identifies a tectonic shift unravelling itself. In fact, Bill Gates is reportedly in awe of the EQ and IQ of Chat GPT.
Dr Paul Gromball, a leading exponent of AI answers the query above; he professes that mankind entered the “Augmented Age” in 1923, leaving the Information/Digital age behind. Others call it the “Knowledge Age” or “Knowledge Era”. The common thread is AI of course which is going to be as big as the internet. While the tools of the Information Age were Computers, Communications, the Internet and Cloud Computing, the key tools for Augmented Age will be Machine Learning, Robotics, IoT and Metaverse Reality It will usher in a data-driven culture of Collaboration and Innovation where AI will amplify Human Intelligence (HI) or Natural Intelligence (NI).
In a way, AI will awaken NI. Every person will now have an AI Personal Assistant, in addition to a computing device like a laptop. The ecosystem of these Personal Assistants will be available 24×7 and deployed at the speed of light. The Human-AI interface will result in Augmented Thinking (Generative Design), Augmented Making (Robotics) and Augmented Sensing (IoT).
The AI Advantage will manifest in numerous ways, Unlocking Productivity being a prominent one. The use of AI can remove economic constraints and lead to a quantum leap in knowledge production. For example, it has been shown that the use of AI can compress the interval between Ideating and Publishing from 120 days to just one day. AI can predict errors even before they happen before a machine breaks down. This could save enterprises thousands of man-hours and lakhs of Rupees.
AI can also provide unprecedented Competitive Advantage in the connected world. The earlier Industrial systems focused on mechanical and physical processes, value chain automation, dispersion and integration which led to incremental gains in productivity and efficiency. The AI Advantage will enable focus on smart connected products, heralding a new era of Business. The data-driven culture of AI will facilitate the envisioning of the emerging structure of digital ecosystems which will be a transformational change from the digital era.
Maturation of the Innovation Curve will be realized under the aegis of AI. Thus, in the diagnostic world, an AI system will be able to scan thousands of brain scans, not just for detecting tumours but for predicting them. An AI-based weather prediction system can integrate data from satellites, weather stations, maps etc and can make accurate forecasts in seconds. It can supercharge a business by analysing historical sales data and predicting future sales.
Every company will need to devise and implement an AI strategy so that it is not left behind in the world of Competitive Advantage. It will commence with everybody from the shop floor to the boardroom learning the fundamentals of AI, picking the right problems (eg enhancing profitability or cutting costs), doing a data inventory and then picking appropriate AI tools.
In the human domain, AI will function as the steam engine of the mind. It will expand the scope of Intuition, Intellect and Interconnectivity with Natural Intelligence. Using a process of training, testing and collaborating, will amplify Human Intelligence. So far, the computing functions have imitated and enhanced the left brain functions, ie logical, rational, and numeric functions based on linear thinking.
The AI will in addition to magnifying the left brain repertoire, awaken the right brain functioning, ie holistic thinking, empathy; emotional and spiritual development. Thus, AI will be able to do all the thinking for us, especially critical thinking. The advantage of AI-based machines is that once it learns something, they can achieve far higher accuracies than humans, and work 24×7, with no need to sleep or desire holidays and weekends. Since they never get fatigued, AI-based systems can take on far more complex assignments than humans. Thus, the most powerful intelligence, we will ever achieve is by making AI and HI work in tandem.
AI has the potential to advance humanity by augmenting the skills, talents and abilities of human beings, allowing faster and better problem solving, with higher efficiency. Brad Smith, the President of Microsoft feels that it will bring an industrial revolution to the Knowledge Worker. AI will be an essential tool to develop critical skills like coding, programming and 3-D modelling in human beings. It is not only organisations that have to adopt “AI First” but individuals who have to be “AI Ready”.
Bill Gates thinks he has witnessed the most important advancement in technology since the Graphical User Interface. He has also stated that AI will transform philanthropy, productivity at jobs, healthcare and education. Intractable problems like Global warming may get resolved with AI systems in the field of Transportation, Afforestation, Agriculture, Manufacturing and Construction acting in tandem. As of now, AI does not control the physical world but how exactly it transforms our lives, only the future can tell.
While expounding the apparently limitless possibilities with AI, it will be prudent to also dwell on limitations and threats which may be posed by AI. Sure, it will throw unexpected challenges, with misinformation and impersonation being obvious misuses. However, it is in the realm of cybersecurity, with the ability of AI to produce spyware/malware, that is frightening.
Future conflicts may pit AI-based systems against AI-based systems rendering hardware ineffective. On the employment front, with AI-based systems taking over the role of coding and content writing, the human profile of the manufacturing and IT industry is likely to drastically change. Only one thing is certain; the next century will be nothing like the last 100 years and if one had the ability to time travel forward to the next century, it may be peeking into an alien, unrecognisable world.