by Dylan Sam '21
With the current technological craze, it is hard to go a day without hearing the words “artificial intelligence” or “machine learning.” However, unless you are studying computer science, these buzzwords probably do not mean much to you. You may imagine amazing chess machines or violent robot uprisings. However, artificial intelligence also has social impacts; Professor Makridakis from the University of Nicosia writes about the applications and consequences of the “AI revolution” on society and companies.
The ongoing “AI Revolution” consists of a general transition to the digital world, where intelligent technologies and software are created to optimally perform tasks and solve problems. The main purpose of artificial intelligence is to “[teach] computers to think for themselves and improvise solutions to common problems.”  The article describes some well-known AI technology: IBM Watson, AlphaGo and DeepMind. These examples illustrate the power of Artificial Intelligence; machines defeated human champions in Jeopardy and Go in short “learning”’ periods. AlphaGo surpassed all other technology in only forty days.
These rapid advancements raise many questions: Can we control AI? Will AI ever threaten human safety? How will this revolution impact companies and society at large?
Makridakis’s article categorizes people based on their perspective on AI: Optimists, Pessimists, Pragmatists, and Doubtists. The optimists picture a “utopian future with Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics (GNR) revolutionizing everything, allowing humans to harness the speed, memory capacities and knowledge sharing ability of computers.” On the other hand, Pessimists believe that the growing abundance of artificial technology will reduce humans to “second-rate status.” Pragmatists are concerned with the potential downfalls and consequences of the technology; they are worried about keeping control of technology and focused on exploiting AI to maximize their productivity. Finally, doubters are skeptical of the creation of AI and the ability to surpass human knowledge. Makridakis conducted a survey about the general perception on AI: “Among the 60 participants, 51, that is 85%, answer ‘Yes,’ while the remaining 15% said ‘No.’” This generally positive outlook on AI illustrates a general acceptance of the imminent revolution and an interest in its powerful applications.
The article finally explores the uses of AI in various companies and the consequences for companies who do not embrace the technology. As shopping and services have become increasingly digitized, the importance of AI has grown as well. Makridakis notes that AI technologies have unique “potential to supplement, substitute and amplify practically all tasks currently performed by humans with critical consequences for firms that must achieve significant productivity improvements to stay competitive.” This would have significant impacts on the workforce; more jobs would become automated, and more technically talented workers would be required to develop more innovative ideas for their AI implementations. Furthermore, companies would be required to implement these analytics and AI over big data to optimize recommendations for customers to stay competitive within the market. AI will become more and more prevalent within the market, forcing other companies to follow; more companies will implement new machine learning algorithms and change the whole characteristic of the workforce.
The forthcoming “AI Revolution” describes the coming transition to the digital. In his article, Makridakis illustrates the consequences of AI and new technology. The article illustrates the society’s perceptions of the revolution, which are generally positive. Makridakis also investigates the commercial implications of the revolutions, as companies must implement AI software and optimization algorithms to remain competitive, thereby changing the dynamic of the workforce. The AI revolution will continue to reshape society, companies, and the workplace with its growing prevalence and seemingly limitless application.
1. Makridakis S. “The forthcoming Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution: Its impact on society and firms.” Futures. 2017;90:46-60. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2017.03.006.