The impact of artificial intelligence on humans

The impact of artificial intelligence on humans

Will the machines take control? Not if we focus on developing the skills that AI cannot replicate

From Siri, the virtual assistant in Apple mobile devices, to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence (AI) is progressing rapidly, outperforming humans at some tasks. As with the majority of the changes happening globally, there will be positive and negative impacts as AI continues to shape the world we live in. Every single one of us will have to reckon with our ability to balance the human way of life and the transition to the AI cosmos.

According to a report by the technology research group IDC, spending on AI is expected to reach US$46 billion by 2020 with no signs of slowing down. AI is definitely on the rise in both business and life in general. The question is, will humans eventually lose control as machines become super-intelligent? Unforeseen consequences are likely whenever a new technology is introduced, and AI is no exception.

It is obvious that AI is a disruptive technology, revolutionising businesses and bringing new approaches to decision-making based on measurable outcomes. It can enhance efficiency and production volume, while cultivating new opportunities for revenue to flourish.

We have to face the fact that humans aren’t always the best at tedious and repetitive tasks, whereas machines don’t get tired or complain. This is where AI is starting to play an important role: freeing humans from drudgery so that we can focus on interpersonal relations and more creative work. 

Is it true that robots and AI will destroy jobs? That is something we hear quite often. Everyone has their own opinions about the pluses and minuses of the technology. However, if you think about it in a positive way, AI is actually encouraging evolution in the job market, as candidates come to realise they need to develop new types of skills in order to secure fulfilling work amid rapid technological advancements. 

The truth is, people will still work, but they will work better with the assistance of AI. In other words, the unparalleled duo of human and machines coming together will soon turn into the “new normal” in the workforce. Already there are many routine white-collar tasks such as answering emails, data entry and related responsibilities that can be handled by “intelligent” assistants if businesses are prepared to recognise the potential.

Away from the office, we can see that more and more people are living in “smart” homes or equipping their residences with hardware and software that can reduce energy usage and provide better security, among other benefits. AI is also having a profound impact on healthcare, leading to improved diagnosis and treatment of many conditions, leading to healthier citizens and healthier economies.

The ability of technology to answer more questions, solve more problems and innovate in previously unimaginable ways goes beyond the capacity of the human brain for better or worse, depending on how one perceives this subject. The elevation of technology will allow individuals to focus on higher functions, with improved quality living standards. 

Challenges will continue to come and go, but the biggest one will be for humans to find their place in this new world, by staking a claim to all the activities that call for their unique human abilities.

A study by PwC forecast that 7 million existing jobs will be replaced by AI in the UK from 2017 to 2037. However, 7.2 million new jobs could be created as well. Yes, many humans are wondering whether they will be part of the 7 million or part of the 7.2 million. Living with this uncertainty is a struggle for many given the transformative impact of AI on our society and the economic, political, legal and regulatory implications that need to be prepared for. 

At its core, AI is about imitating human thought processes. Human beings essentially have to teach AI the how-to of practically everything, but AI cannot be taught how to be empathic, something only humans can do. It is one thing to allow machines to predict and help solve problems; it is another to purposely make them control the ways in which people will be made redundant. 

Therefore, it is vital for us to be more sceptical of AI and recognise its shortcomings together with its potential. By focusing more on training people in soft skills, starting in school, we can help produce a greater number of employable humans who will be able to work alongside machines to deliver the best of both worlds.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC - Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com


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