Monday , 24 September 2018
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Enter Humane Artificial Intelligence Regime

BINAYAK DATTA

SO we are finally looking at the I4 – the 4th Industrial Revolution.  And it is AI (artificial intelligence) that will drive it.  AI will not only derive the industry, but every sphere of our lives; rather AI will drive the show. And my granddaughter, a bright eight-year-old girl, showed me yesterday just how intelligent the Google Assistant in my phone really is. And I have completely shifted over to my Google Assistant for my secretarial proddings now!

I decided to take a close look at artificial intelligence – what it precisely changes, how exactly it impacts our economy and more particularly on jobs and finally what should be our road ahead.

Thinking machines

The chief difference between the automated systems we see everywhere today and the AI lies in the “thinking” part. The present-day automation like an ERP system can do everything – from data accumulation to mining, to tabulating, formatting, analysing, controlling and storing.  But the AI goes further and actually interprets the analytics and takes finite actions that flow therefrom. So if you define human intelligence as the capacity to understand, solve and remember a problem then all of this is available in AI. It means an AI gadget has the ability to act rationally and solve a problem. It is like  putting a human mind in a machine: first the machine has to ‘learn’ to interpret data, then to ‘deep learn’, which means the software learns from the pattern of the data, the algorithms and lastly use its resultant ‘intelligence’ referred to as ‘artificial intelligence’.

But in fact it is the human brain that imparts all of these learnings to its protégé – the AI. So now you have a total game changer – instead of a hardware,   operating and application systems and utility, you have a machine typically the ‘Bot’ (robot in literature) and a language which embeds the ‘machine learning’ and the ‘deep learning’ inside it.

Though the AI was really born in the 1950s it is only now that India is squarely faced with it. And just for a comparison of density of industrial robots already in use: in South Korea, you have 631 robots per 10,000 workmen, in Germany 309, China 68, we in India have just three. That shows the distance we have to traverse. The robotics we use are essentially in the automobile manufacturing sector.

I read a report in  ‘Accenture’ which states that AI has the potential to increase India’s annual growth rate of gross value added  by 1.3 percentage points, lifting the country’s income by 15 per cent  in 2035. The report also estimates that AI could add $957 billion to the Indian economy by changing the nature of work to create better outcome for businesses and the society.

“AI’s transformative power can be compared to the advent of computing itself, and there is strong early evidence that AI can play a key role in unlocking socio-economic value in India…” the report states. And the AI is a strong change driver!

Threat to salaried jobs

Having said this, the rules of the game have to change. The concept of productivity and that of a salaried job as is viewed today will undergo a massive change. For instance, in our $150 billion IT and IT enabled systems industry itself, of the 3.9 million strong workforce 70 per cent of the low-skilled jobs could completely be taken over by AI and the 30 per cent of the medium and high-skilled jobs would require extensive re-skilling in compatibility with AI.

A PwC report states that five years from now 54 million Indians will hold jobs unheard of today. In India, 80 per cent of our jobs are in IT and ITES, retail, financial services, textiles and automobile manufacturing. ‘Gartner’, a world leader in research and advisory activities, predicts that AI would create 2.3 million new jobs but would eliminate 1.8 million existing ones by 2020 in the backdrop of four mega demographic trends – a rising middle class, efficient business innovations, exponentially improved technology (that we now discuss) and high efficiency logistics. That’s about the change perspectives!

Just to mention a few examples of new-age jobs that are bound to surface, say ‘man machine teaming manager’.  The role will combine the strengths of robots and AI software (accuracy, endurance, computation, speed, etc) with the strengths of humans (cognition, judgement, empathy, versatility, etc) to create augmented hybrid teams that generate better business results.

Or let us imagine the job designation ‘chief data detective’. The role will entail generating meaningful business answers and recommendations from studying data generated by AI end points, devices, sensors, biometric monitors, traditional computing infrastructure, next-gen fog, mesh, edge, neural capabilities, etc.

Currently, much of the data collected in these areas goes unexamined; Or just fancy an ‘owner facilitator’ who will provide business users with the flexibility to compile their own mobile and collaborative environments; or even an ‘assistant healthcare executive’ who will show up at patients’ doorsteps to examine, diagnose and administer appropriate treatment, aided by cutting-edge technology and remotely accessible doctors. With the help of AI, even those with a nursing degree will be able to perform certain surgeries.

Startups in India are responding to this through targeted innovation. For instance, a Bangalore-based startup has built robots targeting logistics (for the e-commerce sector). Their robots can organise about 600 pieces in an hour; a human can manage only 100 in the same time. In a whole lot of fields of social importance like agriculture, soil fertigation, meteorology and hazard warning and actions thereon are ideally best done on AI.

In the re-education and re-skilling a lot of governmental actions are warranted and as surely as ever the draft new education policy has not a word of it in its agenda.

Our chief impediments in the way for world-class manufacture are productivity and logistics.  And the AI is surely the next disruptor.  It is certainly not – whether AI or not? It is only how to bring in AI efficiently and with a humane face!

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