I’ve recently been thinking how far we’ve come in such a short period of time thanks to the internet of things.
I recall how excited I was the first time I connected my 14.4k modem to get online for the first time. The sound it made only added to the sense of wonder. It is incredible thinking back on how slow it was for web pages to load compared to today. As quickly and profoundly as the internet changed the world, artificial intelligence (AI) may dwarf the internet in its disruptive capacity. This is first of a series of articles where I will examine the various aspects of change in relation to the economy, businesses and finance in general which we may expect from AI in the decades to come.
Science daily defines AI as; “the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximizes its chances of success”. 1 As this topic has the potential to shape the destiny of our future economy, it is naturally controversial to say the least. I find myself often drawn into debates both for and against this technology. This is normal as change is often associated with fear. Never before have human beings prospered on such an enormous level as they have under the industrial revolution. Throughout our history we have been limited by the strength of our own bodies to fuel production. Some 200 years ago our reality changed. Suddenly we could harness the energy of steam and fossil fuels to power the engines of our needs and the limits of the strength in our bodies ceased to matter. At the turn of a key we could summon the power of 200 horses to get us to where we wanted to go. The gargantuan leap that humans were able to take as a result of this new technology is without equal in history. A similar leap may be at our doorstep with AI technology.
Fear is a natural reaction to change.
Economic dislocation is a natural phenomenon with major change. Despite having not been there to witness it personally, I am confident that scribes were not enthusiastic about the creation of the printing press in the 1400s. 2
Trying to wrap our heads around the rapid pace of change is a daunting task to say the least and that is just considering what the information age has brought to us by the internet of things. What’s coming has the potential to make the changes we’ve undergone in the last 20 years seem like we were standing still. Luckily our brains are built to deal with change. Studies around neuroplasticity indicate that our brains are built to change with our environments. In fact engaged minds focused on learning new skills release neurochemicals which enable the brain to change its own wiring. 3 This means that those interested and motivated to change with what AI will create can benefit greatly from the results and this may proliferate to virtually all levels of the economy.
While the prospects for artificial intelligence have both the potential to amaze and terrify alike, it is without a doubt one of the most exciting times for the human race. The next article in this series will concentrate on the development of bots as we are using them today and how they have impacted our lives. We will also examine the contrast between the weak AI we have today and the strong AI being built for the future. Special consideration is needed to understand the potential impacts of both, what they can do for us and also what we need to consider.
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