Considering (And Reconsidering) AI

Jan Wright, Publisher, iBi

A few weeks ago, while in production for this issue, we lost our Internet service for a couple of hours. Just that—coupled with the uncertainty of not knowing how long it would take to restore—was all it took for a mild sense of panic to set in.

Sound familiar? The Internet is now such a basic, essential tool—engrained into our workdays—we forget how much of our work relies on that connection… until it’s gone. Fortunately in this case, we were up and running again in less than two hours.

That same week, our managing editor had to place a customer service call. As it turns out, the call center was based in Florida and had just been hit by Hurricane Irma; no one was available to take his call. This hardly compares to the human suffering and damages caused by the hurricane, but it illustrates my point: our dependence on technology, in every aspect of society, continues to grow.

“We are all technology companies now,” proclaimed Alan Murray, chief content officer of Time Inc., at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. “Tech is no longer an industry; it is a strategic piece of every industry.” And we are all grappling with the effects.

Augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, bots… All these things that once felt futuristic are here today. So will robots automate us right out of our jobs? There’s a case to be made on both sides.

On the one hand, while “jobs with predictable labor are highly subject to automation, jobs that require management or expertise are not,” writes Steve Richey of Float. “It’s the jobs with high expertise or human interaction where automation can augment, not replace, the potential of skilled workers.”

But not all jobs requires high expertise or human interaction—what about those workers? “Over the next 10 years [artificial intelligence] will automate millions of service and professional jobs,” write Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig. “The best research to date says that nearly 50 percent of our jobs will be automated, and that may be just the beginning.”

None other than Russian President Vladimir Putin recently declared that artificial intelligence is the future—and “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world." Considering the source, it’s an alarming prospect. Are we truly ready for such a world?

We hope you find this issue of iBi helpful and thought-provoking as you consider the role of technology in your own business and in life. iBi

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