Artificial intelligence has staggering capabilities already, and, as astounding as they are, they are going to increase exponentially in the next few years.
While there are reasons to be concerned – foremost among them, threats to our privacy – humans need not fear for their relevance, said Malcolm Frank, executive vice president and chief strategic officer at Cognizant, an information technology services company. Frank was a principal speaker at Investments & Wealth Institute’s recent Investment Advisor Forum.
Machines are great at collecting and analyzing data and recognizing patterns, Frank said. But they cannot, and they never will be able to, have emotion, feel empathy, provide social context, read visual cues or apply judgement and ethics, he said. We should therefore not fear the development of AI, but rather educate ourselves about it and learn to use it as an ally in our professions.
It’s like Kirk and Spock [in Star Trek],”he said. “You need both.”
The speed with which economies have switched from an industrial business model, which prevailed as recently as 2010, to the current digital business model, has been breathtaking, he said.
“This is just the beginning,” he said.
Frank gave numerous examples of how the unimaginable has become reality, in very short periods of time. It has been dumbfounding to watch digital companies, which not too long ago seemed ephemeral, swallow up analog businesses that had been mainstays of developed economies. But, in the not-at-all distant future, gargantuan companies that now dominate in the digital world – Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple – will be seen as “goofy” firms, that will be superseded by new “pillars of society,” Frank said.
As Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently said, “AI is more profound than fire or electricity,” Frank noted.
To illustrate the already stunning powers of AI, Frank cited AlphaGo Zero, a program that played itself 4.9 million times at Go in order to teach itself how to play and beat itself at the game 100% of the time. It took three days for the machine to teach itself this level of mastery.
Frank also cited the work of Dr. Rita Singh, of Carnegie Mellon University, who is able to develop elaborate profiles of individuals through the use of bot-enhanced analysis of the human voice. The profiles that can be developed include the detection of illnesses that may not produce symptoms for a decade.
The Airbus A350, which generates 2.5 terabytes of data per day through its 6,000 sensors – by comparison, all of the works of Shakespeare fit in 5 megabytes – is yet another example of the powers of artificial intelligence, Frank said.
In the not-at-all distant future, AI will have an impact on every industry and that which we now find remarkable will seem antiquated, he said.
Genetics-based diagnoses, the cancer research of today, for example, will look like the use of leeches up until the 19th century does to us now.
Virtual reality will be bigger than television by 2025, and augmented reality will be bigger than virtual reality. For example, people will be able to walk down a New York street and receive information about the history, construction and other facets of each building. Already, labels on wine bottles that explain the vintage inside can be activated by cell phones.
Football players will train by watching virtual reality plays and insurance policies will be written based on the precise histories of individual homes. Colleges will use digital monitoring of students studying to determine individuals’ strengths and weakness and so provide needed help as well as advice about a career pathway in which a student is likely to succeed.
Klaus Schwab, economic chairman of the World Economic Forum, has predicted that it will soon be corporate best practice to have AI sit on the board of directors, Frank said.
In whatever one’s profession, one can take advantage of AI, Frank said. “Cobots,” digital colleagues, will enhance everyone’s performance and will be, “the most trusted member of your team,” he said. He urged investment advisors to figure out how Cobots can help “liberate” them. Cobots should not be feared.
“When machines do everything, we’ll still have a lot to do,” said Frank.
And, he advised that everyone spend at least half an hour every day getting educated about AI.
“We’re in the fourth industrial revolution,” he said. “If you were in the midst of the last revolution, would you get up to speed on it?”