AI: are humans obsolete?

Dystopia or Utopia? Will robots be our – willing – slaves or overlords? Actually, what is 'artificial intelligence'? We may not realise how pervasive it is already.

We spoke to an AI scientist, a digital human creator, a venture capitalist, an ex-Google banker and an economist about their experience with and expectations for AI in the future.

Here are their highlights or watch the video below. We’ll present each expert’s views in full in a future article - don't miss out, subscribe now.

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Eleanor Huntington – Dean, ANU College of Engineering & Computer Science

The role of engineers in our world is to bring technological trust at scale. If you think about why people were so unhappy with the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica issues, it was because there was a fundamental breakdown in trust.

"I suspect technology is part of the problem but also part of the solution.” - Yetsenga

When you drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, you trust the bridge isn't going to fall down. We are only just starting to see where artificial intelligence resides and whether or not we can trust it.

There are really important questions about how we embed ethics and our understanding of people’s psychology into the way we write code and I think that's going to be one of the most important and profound things humans do over the next five to 10 years.

Richard Yetsenga – Chief Economist, ANZ

It's not difficult to imagine artificial intelligence helping collect better data about humans and our movements - we're already using satellite imagery more effectively and lots of people wear fitness accessories which track their movements.

However I suspect technology is part of the problem but also part of the solution.

Everybody agrees we will see tremendous disruption in labor markets but there is still a debate about who will win. For knowledge workers, AI will take the 'robot out of the worker' in the sense it will help with tasks which have a repetitive element.

I hope it's the same for economists….

Greg Cross – Chief Business Officer & Co-Founder, Soul Machines

At Soul Machines, we’ve gone beyond what Hollywood is doing with the quality of the digital characters they are producing. What's really interesting is the way we bring them to life by taking away actors and cameras which have traditionally been used to bring computer generated characters to life.

We've automated these characters by giving them a brain and creating a system which enables them to respond, interact and engage with us in exactly the same way we engage with each other.

But at what point does this digital character become engaging to the humans that they're interacting with? At what point can we relate to them? At what point can we learn to trust them?

In very simple terms by putting a face on artificial intelligence we're trying to create a platform where people can develop trust in machines.

Building trust between humans and machines is going to be a really critical part of the way we use our systems in the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

Dan Petre – Co-Founder & Partner, AirTree Ventures

I don't think humans are obsolete but I think the problem we have is an inability to believe anything is going to be better than us.

If you think about doctors or lawyers, there is a cognitive dissonance between how good they actually are and how good they think they are. In medicine, some of the software being used is better than the best doctors in the world at diagnosing disease conditions.

If these changes to multiple industries happened over a 50 year time span, society could adjust however the reality is this is happening at a much faster pace and society will not have time to naturally evolve.

Maile Carnegie – Group Executive – Digital, ANZ

One of the things which is really hard to understand is the compression of innovation cycles - it feels like people are only just getting used to things like mobile or the cloud.

AI is going to be the new differentiator between businesses which are increasingly successful versus those that aren't and there is a fundamental decision a CEO and board need to make about how seriously they are going to take AI.

Because AI is such a large pond to play in, businesses need to get really clear about where they’re going to drive the biggest value and really clearly define these use cases and objectives.

I think businesses should focus on machine-to-machine and back-office applications because that’s where most companies can drive the biggest value. Partners will also be integral to both lift capability and record really high quality data pools.

Andrew Cornell is managing editor of bluenotes

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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