Monday, April 7, 2014

"Within 5 Years" - Robot Replacement of Human Workers Predicted to Accelerate

It has previously been theorized that all humans will be outsourced to robots by the 2045 date of The Singularity. However, we already are seeing the rapid replacement of workers in a wide variety of areas, and it is having an undeniable economic impact.

The science of artificial intelligence is being fully embraced by all of the major tech companies. With such investment behind various robotic and A.I. initiatives, we are beginning to see a strong acceleration toward replacing humans as completely as possible.

One entrepreneur in the field is now saying that for specific jobs there very well could be 100% replacement in just 5 years.

The economic elite have not hidden their agenda of replacing human labor with machines. Speaking at the most recent Davos economic conference - widely considered to be the elite economic forum to discuss trends and political strategy - an expert in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Jeremy Howard, had some stunning announcements that indicate a major shift in employment is set to occur very soon.

Howard stated that we have hit a critical threshold where machine intelligence is performing better than even the leading experts in the fields of medicine, science, and banking, among others. Howard went on to assert that we are about to encounter conditions akin to those that occurred after the Industrial Revolution replaced manufacturing and agricultural workers to a vast degree.

And this is for highly skilled labor. But as A.I. entrepreneur and owner of London Brand Management, Dmitry Askenov, asserts - salespeople, call center staff and customer service personnel are really on the chopping block.

In these types of information acquisition and information relay jobs, computers could function faster and with a far lesser degree of error. As Askenov's company website indicates:

For example, if someone asks a question, the system understands it and finds an answer, and gets back in the same tone of voice; it ‘echo’s’ the sentiment. If the same person asks five more questions, the system understands this person is engaging with the product and can notify one or more of the appropriate people in the organisation who can then follow up the customer’s interest. The only difference between how a real human would do this and our system is the speed of the reply and that our system is tireless – it can work 24/7/365 and can reply to a potential customer’s question with the correct information in milliseconds.
Our system, like a human, understands natural language such as questions and feedback as well a the product knowledge held by clients and in the public domain. It then finds the required information, performs programmed actions and replies as a human would. (Source)

Some people might believe that computers are still in the stages of merely processing information and could never communicate in a human manner to be equally effective where social cues are concerned. Not so, says Askenov:

It not only reads the keywords and understands the kind of information you are trying to learn; it also interprets context, sentiment, and can even understand humour. It also remembers and learns as you talk to it, so it’s capable of having a proper conversation.
[...] 
Within five years we will have a system that truly knows more than a human could ever know and is more efficient at delivering information. (emphasis added) [Source]

The rapid development in artificial intelligence is what has led to such seemingly outlandish predictions such as those made by Professor of Computer Science, Moshe Vardi, when he stated that all human work will be fully outsourced to robots and robotic machine intelligence by 2045. But we need to keep in mind that this is not some sort of overnight switch that gets thrown; it is happening right now, as technology is already killing middle class jobs.

Apparently no one seems to be immune ... not even this writer. Another recent article really got my personal attention - robot journalism. It seems that indeed robot journalists are populating the Internet. So far, they have been relegated to statistical acquisition articles, such as sporting events, financial reports, and earthquake news. However, as Singularity Hub reported, more news is being written by the proprietary A.I. program from company Narrative Science than you might think:

Forbes is open about its use of Narrative’s software, including an explanation in the article. The LA Times earthquake story, written by an algorithm created by one of their staff, included a disclaimer. But many more big sites anonymously use algorithms to write simple stories. 
Narrative’s approach can be applied elsewhere too. The firm recently launched an app that works with Google Analytics to transform raw website metrics (traffic, sources, referrals, demographics) into accessible, natural language reports. These could be useful in any business, a kind of automated analyst to help make sense of big data sets. (Source) Remembering that this type of technology is exponential in its evolution, we are presented with predictions that a robot journalist could win the Pulitzer prize within 5 years, which precisely echoes the time frame given by Askenov for call center staff replacement. Narrative Science goes on to claim that 90% of all news articles could be A.I. generated by 2030.

I am left hoping that these predictions are just wishful thinking from company spokespeople with a product to sell. In the meantime, if you have any news tips, please send them my way in the comment section below.

Key books on the subject:
Key documentary by Sam Vallely on the subject of technological unemployment and how to position yourself: Will Work For Free

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