Understanding AI and its impact on humanity

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes an integral part of our daily lives, it is important to know how it works and benefits society.

Dr Anton Ravindran, who has been in the information technology industry for more than 30 years and worked for IT leaders such as IBM and Sun Microsystems before becoming an entrepreneur, gives an insight with his book Will AI Dictate The Future?.

The book talks about how AI is shaping the future of humanity across nearly every industry. It is already the main driver of emerging technologies like big data, robotics and Internet of Things (IoT), and will continue to act as a technological innovator for the foreseeable future.

"AI is probably the most impactful technology in human history," said Dr Ravindran, founder of legaltech firm SmartLaw, founder CEO of GICT, and adviser and practice lead (AI and cloud computing) at Digital Insights Ventures.

"But until five years ago, half of the people didn't know when they were using or experiencing AI. A study also revealed that 70 per cent of consumers have an innate fear of AI.

"AI is already changing our lives and it motivated me to write this book."

AI has been around for 60 years but progressed exponentially only in the last five years.

Dr Ravindran, who was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year in 2005 and 2006, wrote that AI in recent years developed three distinct capabilities that are fast becoming pervasive: the ability to recognise objects and images, speech recognition and language translation.

"We are at the last stages of Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). AI is vast and fast developing with several subsets. It touches all facets of industry, society and life."

The book focuses on the impact of AI on healthcare, manufacturing, law, mobility, financial services, cyber security, higher education, space research and satellite systems.

"AI can search through voluminous amounts of real-time data in different formats, including images, and provide insights on a real-time basis," said Dr Ravindran.

"It can perform tasks with much more precision than a surgeon or physician, function without burnout and has no emotions."

Singapore's national AI initiative - AI Singapore (AISG) - aims to boost the country's AI capabilities to power the future digital economy. AI is increasingly becoming part of industries such as finance, transportation, education and manufacturing.

Accenture research reported that by leveraging AI, Singapore's manufacturing will grow by 40 per cent to US$101 billion ($143b) by 2035, compared to US$71 billion without AI.

But advances in technology come with both challenges and opportunities. The great promise of AI for humanity, if not managed well, can also be an existential threat and potential peril.

"AI has become a revolutionary national security technology and it permeates all systems including finance, healthcare, supply chain and even military surveillance, reconnaissance and weapon systems," said Dr Ravindran.

"When managed wisely, AI can change the world for the better."

AI is also becoming smarter and has begun to augment human intelligence.

Amazon has more than 500,000 robots working alongside humans in its warehouses. But this deployment has led to fears that humans will soon be redundant.

"Routine jobs are likely to be replaced by AI because it can exceed human performance, has zero fatigue and is capable of learning to optimise itself," said Dr Ravindran.

"This transformation and consequent disruptions are inevitable. The workforce will have to develop new skill sets. There is no other option.

"According to the World Economic Forum, closing the growing skills gap of the workforce can add US$11.5 trillion to the global GDP by 2028."

Will AI Dictate the Future? ($35) is available at major bookstores and online (Amazon, Book Depository, Google and Kinokuniya). All author's proceeds from the sales will be donated to the Singapore Cancer Society.


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