I came across this video by Josh Clark where he talks about the challenges and opportunities of designing stuff (products/services) in the era of algorithms.
This is a must watch video if you are currently engaged in developing a product or service which uses machine learning or artificial intelligence. He points out some very interesting places where you could potentially go wrong. Watch, listen, understand and avoid these mistakes.
Hope you like the video and learnt something important.
There is a growing realisation amongst us in the world that we are currently just moving towards a future where most of the existing jobs will be taken over by AI and robots. While there are a lot of people who will say that the future where we will be either working along with AI or robots or even lose our jobs to them. There are already robots and AI algorithms which are helping do jobs that lawyers, doctors, writers, journalists, musicians, artists, accountants and analysts.
Accounting Standards & AI:
One of the things that was surprising to me when i read a post by John Sharp, that I realised the role that accounting standards could potentially play in the acceleration in the adoption of AI and robots in our day-to-day life.
Thanks to accounting conventions and tax laws dating back centuries, a robot doesn’t need to be better – or more efficient – than a human being at a task to make a business more profitable. It just needs to be 34% as good, or 11% as good, depending on that business’s accounting and amortizations policies.
This is a standard practice that almost every entrepreneur around the world uses in order to reduce their overall tax liability. This means that for business who want to replace humans with robots and AI algorithms, the accounting standards that we follow around the world is a good thing in every way we can think of. So, I would not be surprised to see more and more businesses go to algorithms for automation and elimination of human labor, even if they are not very effective already, knowing too well, that they will get increasingly better with time.
What does this mean:
This means that as a race, we need to understand the implications of AI and robots becoming common place. There is a distinct possibility that this can happen much faster than we all expect. This means that we need to have a productive dialogue to discuss these implications and find ways and means to ease out this transition for the people who will be affected the most by this transition.
I believe that as entrepreneurs, it is our responsibility towards our employees to take care of them. Human history tells us that mass displacement of labour with high levels of unemployment is a recipe for disaster. So, as entrepreneurs, we are in a unique position to not only talk about how this transition will take place, but also imagine the new kinds of jobs that could arise in the new reality that we are moving towards. It is then in our own self-interest to train our people in such a way that they can smoothly move into these new jobs that will be created.
We also need to think about the following – What use it is to increase our productivity by replacing humans with robots, thereby increasing unemployment for us as a business? If there is massive unemployment, who will buy the products that we are making so efficiently?
The reality is that right now, we are all speculating. However, one thing is certain. Robots and AI algorithms will arrive in the workplace sooner or later and disrupt the employment rates in our society. We need to be ready for this displacement. It is in the best interest of us entrepreneurs to help ensure a smooth transition and avoid anarchy in the market.
In conclusion, us as entrepreneurs start thinking about this issue.
Lets start having a conversation about what could the different futures look like,
What could the jobs of the future look like?
What can we do to help our employees learn the skills that will help them transition to the new reality?
What kind of policies (taxation, regulation or limitations) need to be thought, discussed and decided upon.
It is in our best interest to bring this discussion in the public discourse and ensure that the transition that we are going to witness is as smooth and minimally disruptive as it could be.
We are entering an era where there is a good likelihood that we will be working along with some form or kind of artificial intelligence in our career.
If you Agree
If we agree on this premise, then we need to start thinking about some of the following questions:
Why do we think that this is likely?
What would that look and feel like?
How will the AI – Human interaction evolve?
What kind of work will the AI do and what kind of work will we humans do?
What will be the composition of the teams?
What happens if there are conflicts between humans and the AI?
Will performance appraisals still exist? IF yes, will they be done in the same way for both Humans and the AI?
Will there ever be conflicts between humans and the AI?
Who will get promoted for good work – Humans or the AI?
Will the AI also learn to lead? If yes, will it become a better leader than humans?
These are just pointers to the kind of questions that we need to start thinking about. I personally believe that we will have some kind of AI start working in our offices sometime soon and it would be better if we are prepared with an answer to these questions before that happens rather than start thinking about this post-facto.
If you don’t agree:
If we don’t agree on this premise, we need to start thinking about the following questions:
Why do we think this is unlikely?
What role will AI play in our organisations?
Irrespective of our belief, we need to start thinking about the role that AI will play in our organisation and the impact it will have on everything from culture of the organisation to how will humans and AI collaborate and work together.
The reason I bring this up is because, while I see a lot of people working on AI and trying to bring it to our cubicles, I don’t see any discussion or debate about what would it mean to have an AI work alongside us humans.
Given that we are already seeing Artificial intelligence take on every sphere of arts (fiction & non-fiction writing, poetry, music composition, painting, etc) & sciences (meta learning, run experiments, diagnose diseases), the question that remains to be asked is will AI also be able to start and run a business by itself.
While that seems to be a long way away (maybe no long enough), the question that remains to be answered is the following:
What is the Future of Creativity
While the ability of AI to create art of any kind and be creative is still in its nascency, I am sure that the gap between the art created by most people and the art created by AI will equal soon and AI created art will soon surpass the art created by common folks.
This also means that we need to think about our own creative process and maybe incorporate certain elements of AI creativity within our creative process. Just like chess player teams (AI + Humans) trump just AI teams or just human teams, I would assume that the art created by the combination of AI and human creativity will trump art created by AI’s or purely humans, in all dimensions.
What follows is that we need to be able to not only understand the creative process of AI but also need to understand our own creative process as well and learn to play with the AI as a team.
What does this mean for Us?
For creative artists:
We need to up our game and push boundaries with our creativity, just to continue to remain relevant.
We need to experiment a lot more with new and complex arts and genres.
We need to also learn to appreciate art much better than we have done so far as a race.
For Doctors, Lawyers, accountants, software engineers and kind:
Most white collar jobs can be and will be replaced by AI systems.
We need a way to up-skill millions of people and do that at scale and at a speed unheard of in our history.
As a society, we need to be able to learn to interact and live with AI systems (which is already happening to some extent with AI systems like Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa already becoming common place).
For our Children and their education:
We need to fundamentally change the what we teach our kids and how we teach them
We need to be able to help them master the skills of working with AI systems and creating new AI systems. This means that we need completely new kinds of education systems.
We need to evolve as a race to a much more advanced state of cognition, which allows us to not only work with AI systems but also control and create new AI systems.
Usually, this scale of human evolutions would take hundreds of thousands of years, but as with everything else surrounding us, this is a change that is happening around us and at a pace that will necessitate that we evolve in decades rather than in centuries or more.
If for some reason, we are unable to evolve, we will see unprecedented scale of unemployment, unprecedented scale of economic and intellectual divide and thereby a lot of unrest in the world, leading to unprecedented protests, political and socio-economic unrests.
All said and done, I am sure that the next few decades will see the kind of changes that no one in any of our preceding generation has seen in a single life time.
My generation is already the first generation that has seen technology evolve from a fixed line telephone to AI created arts and science and I am sure that I will see a lot more before i bid adieu to this life.