From Siri to Alexa and beyond, will AI be a threat to entrepreneurship?
Humans are already no longer the dominant species on Earth. Or so it seems.
We have a slow but steady increase in AI-based systems all over the world that could prove challenging to tasks traditionally or mostly assigned to humans. Although it does seem a novelty or even exciting at this moment of time, could there be a time when AI could threaten the very existence of innovation and ideas we have taken for granted – the kind of creativity that fuels and builds entrepreneurship?
In 2014, the number of mobile electronic devices surpassed the number of people. If you include computers that are not mobile, the number of Internet-connected devices will reach 34 billion by 2020.
But does this really mean a threat to entrepreneurship? Let’s look at 5 tips of how AI can be a challenge to negotiate.
The All-encompassing Smartphone – Is it taking over our creativity?
Let’s consider only the most “intelligent” species of mobile device – the smartphone, which is basically a handheld computer running (almost exclusively) Android or iOS. Smartphones have come from nothing to near-dominance in a remarkably short time.
The number of smartphones is projected to reach 6.1 billion in 2020 and will overtake the human population shortly thereafter. Could it threaten some of our enterprising tasks? For now, it seems an intelligent solution to many things from appointments to checking mail and browsing online but could they possess the capability to spy on us or take us away from spending time in creative pursuits?
If data is anything to go by, we are already staring at our device far too long that we should be – which of course may not always be conducive to creative pursuits.
Smartphones are still low on the scale needed to challenge the human brain for now, but they have high intelligence potential. Many people living in advanced economies have already integrated their memories and navigation skills to smartphones and cloud servers.
The march of the robots –
There are expected to be 31 million domestic robots in 2019, which is already far higher than the 2.6 million industrial robots projected for the same year. The current plan in the industry focuses on three trends, in which consumer growth is far outpacing industrial or military growth:
- We don’t want to do housework, and would gladly buy any robot that could be as useful as a dishwasher or a washing also.
- Driving is a huge waste of time that robot cars can do better if we can teach them to do it.
- We are all living longer, and soon we won’t be able to look after all of those old people – either financially or in terms of available human labour. Automation of aged care will become crucial.
- And to add to the tasks, there are sex robots who don’t need relationships and attention human beings crave.
During the next few decades (or maybe sooner), the notion of work and whether it is handled by a human or a virtual being will hinge on predictability. As they are starting to do today, machines will manage the routine while humans take on the unpredictable – tasks that require creativity, problem solving and flexibility.
A new report indicates that by 2030, as many as 800 million workers worldwide could be replaced at work by robots.
The study found that in more advanced economies like the U.S. and Germany, up to one-third of the 2030 workforce may need to learn new skills and find new work. In economies like China, roughly 12% of workers may need to switch occupations by 2030.
The report also provides insight into the industries that will be least impacted by robots and the skills needed to fill those positions.
For some industries, an increase in automation won’t mean a decline in employment, but rather a shift in the tasks needed to be done. For example, any job that involves managing people, applying expertise and social interaction will still be necessary, human performance in those areas can’t be matched by a machine.
Will computers grow into monster think tanks?
That’s not to say that the role of computers will not grow and handle more sophisticated processes. Even today, machines “learn” to carry out tasks we could hardly imagine 20 years ago. Did a DJ just pick your favourite song, or was it an algorithm?
Using statistical patterns in data, computers can “learn” to improve the efficiency of many different work processes – such as customer care and toll collection on the highways. One day soon, computers even may handle routine medical diagnosis.
But as we deploy computers to make our world more efficient, human work will take on more of a “problem solving” role, overseeing processes and coming to the rescue when things go awry. As computers enable massive optimization, the ability to accommodate error shrinks, and this can lead to a crisis – in work and in society.
However, jobs involving mortgage origination, accounting and back-office transaction processing can easily be wiped out by automation.
Research by the networking platform found that fewer professionals are adding accounting and financial reporting to their profiles. Instead, employees are beefing up their online resumes with more soft skills like management, leadership and customer service.
While the impact of robots and automation may be scary to some, Bill Gates says the issue is nothing to panic about.
“This is a case where Elon [Musk] and I disagree,” he said in a Wall Street Journal interview, in which he addressed Musk’s gloomy vision of the future.
According to Gates, anyone with skills in science, engineering and economics will always be in demand.
Will AI enhance our capability for creativity and innovation or limit it?
Entrepreneurs have always been driven by innovation and creativity – without which, there would be nothing new to create or start. The big question is if AI will be able to facilitate our capability to develop better, bigger strategies that involve innovation and creativity while hum- drum everyday tasks are to be more easily managed by AI. But then, the question is not everyone is driven to be an entrepreneur. The majority of the people in the world benefit from engaging in sometimes repetitive and predictable tasks. Some are very comfortable in those roles – such jobs keep them in the workforce and sustain families. If automation takes over, will the majority of people who engage in everyday tasks at companies and organizations find their jobs no longer available to humans?
Should we keep AI within limits or should the sky be the limit for AI?
This is a question we have continuously pondered – not just as entrepreneurs but as the human race in general. Many in the tech world believe that there is a time and a place for AI and that should be fine as long as limits are clearly placed within the tasks allocated to automation. Yet others feel differently.
In the end, it is all about whether we still want to keep our sanity and our industriousness that firstly created AI intact – without having to assign everything to robots and AI.