Think about the future and the John Lennon hit Imagine comes readily to mind. Though the iconic singer-songwriter alluded to a non-material world in the song, its central theme, so aptly represented by its title, could easily refer to the times in which we live. As the cyber world takes quantum strides with the introduction of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, Imagine could well be the word used to define the limitless horizons we are inexorably hurtling towards.
Having created computers using their own intelligence, humans are now witnessing trends that suggest their creations (computers) are slowly headed towards achieving the same level of intelligence as humans. Ray Kurzweil (1), one of the most-known futurists, opines that computers will have the same level of intelligence as humans by 2029. “2029 is the consistent date I have predicted for when an AI will pass a valid Turing test and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence. I have set the date 2045 for the ‘Singularity’ which is when we will multiply our effective intelligence a billionfold by merging with the intelligence we have created,” he said in an interview.
Yet while the juggernaut rolls forward with breakneck speed, the focus, for now, lies on the coming together of big data, AI, and humans – and that magical moment when these three combine to create a never-before witnessed synergy that impacts all walks of life.
Magic and more magic
(1) Already the three are combining to produce unimaginable results in the field of precision medicine. AI and Big Data are being used in tandem with human intelligence (also called Authentic Intelligence) to arrive at the best approach (using Augmented Intelligence) to treat or prevent an individual’s disease. Human life spans will increase as solutions become more accurate, affordable, and easily available. On the automotive front, driverless cars are using Deep Learning to power vehicles safely, making road accidents – which still have the highest casualty rate – literally a thing of the past. It is projected that by 2035 almost 70% of all miles driven will be handled by autonomous cars. In the personal and corporate space, Virtual Assistants and Robotics powered by voice technology are here to stay. And elsewhere, as discussions abound about embedding chips in human beings for a variety of reasons ranging from medical diagnoses to security, comes the news that Neuralink, an Elon Musk company, has successfully implanted a chip in a monkey that allows it to play Pong. Implantables, it seems have arrived!
Explaining the magic
As AI and big data working together with human interface continue to provide successful examples of collaboration in various fields, it is worthwhile looking at some of the intrinsic reasons for the unprecedented success. However, it is necessary to answer three burning questions:
- First, the question of whether machines will replace human beings. Harvard Business Review (2) is of the opinion that this is unlikely, given that the two bring entirely different sets of values to the table. The study says that the very presumption that AI and humans have the same qualities and abilities is wrong to start with. AI-based machines are fast, more accurate, and consistently rational, but they aren’t intuitive, emotional, or culturally sensitive. It’s exactly these abilities that humans possess, which make us an altogether different type of intelligence that machines may never have.
- Second, which of the players in this mix plays the more important part? Here it is worthwhile revisiting Alan Turing’s philosophy which propounded that AI imitates the way humans act and decide. It does not tire, working as long as it receives its data feed. This strongly suggests that AI working with big data is the undoubted choice for repetitive, ‘lower-level’ tasks that would find human beings wanting, were they to be tasked with them. Humans, on the contrary, have the ability to imagine, anticipate, feel, assess changing situations, and transition from short to long-term concerns. It is therefore obvious that each plays an equally important role.
- Third, which of the players has the greater control? Digital Reality (3) answers this. Augmented Intelligence differs from AI in terms of its autonomy. Augmented Intelligence allows human interface to make informed decisions based on the interaction and analysis of AI and Authentic Intelligence. Experts cite the experiments in chess, including those at the world championship level, to make the case for Augmented Intelligence.
The jury though is still out with some antagonists arguing that there is a dark side to AI that can’t be ignored. They draw attention to the fact that AI and Authentic Intelligence can result in surveillance of citizens tending toward violation of human rights, wide-scale technology-driven warfare, job losses and pay cuts, and an increase in socio-economic inequality in the population.
Considering the current situation and envisioning the evident potential of these technologies, the collaboration between humans and machines has the capacity to push the limits of our existence. This becomes particularly evident with the advancements in Quantum Computing(4), a promising field that has generated great anticipation. It is undeniably accurate to assert that the future of our world rests on the synergy of Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, and human intelligence. These three components are interdependent, mutually essential, and together have the capability to generate ground-breaking solutions that transcend traditional industry boundaries.
With the combination so successful and the magic so wonderful, exciting new frontiers await us. John Lennon would have said: Imagine!