The talk about AI (Artificial Intelligence) replacing human capital in the workplace is not a new one.  This conversation has been going on since 1997 when Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov at chess.

However, the talk and discussions have intensified as AI technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the last ten years.  Recently, more and more people are wondering if robots will indeed take over from people in the workplace.

Neal Cross from DBS ฺBank and Peng T. Ong from Monk’s Hill Ventures held a fireside chat about advancing technologies and their effect on the modern-day workplace.

Are AI’s ready to replace humans and are they smarter than us?

Even though the robotics technology and AI is a lot further ahead than most people realize, it is the belief of Peng T. Ong that AI is not yet ready to take over from people.  That may change in the next five to ten years, as we are already seeing the advancement of AI in some areas of work.  For example, AI is being tested in the self-driving cars and will eventually take over driving jobs from people.  Blue collar jobs such as bus drivers and truck drivers can one day very soon be done by machines.

Peng T. Ong further explains that no one can define the terms of AI and its level of smart yet.  Machines are not yet able to learn emotions and emotional responses but they are smart.  Machines will appear smarter or think smarter but are not yet capable of every human interaction and replicate emotional.

Will AI replace blue collar jobs?

The question that should be asked is how much do we value humans, and when asking from a purely economic sense there are some jobs that will be best for humans than machines.

However, even now there are jobs we cannot do without machines. For example, how do we build an iPhone without machines?  The upside is that we get to decide what is valuable and we get to set those bars and it is not purely about economics.

Looking at a broader spectrum of work, white collar jobs are not immune to the threat of AI.  AI has the capability of disrupting across the spectrum.  For example, high-end jobs such as the legal profession can be replaced by a machine as it will do the job better.

AI is not without its problems

AI and machine learning systems are using historical data.  When certain machines have been tested, they showed incredible racial bias.  This is due completely to the historical data.

Unfortunately, machines show us who we are.  With the current data and the movement of social trends, the historical data does not make for good working or interacting machines.

There is a great case scenario where a Microsoft robot had to be shut down because it was learning to speak from the crowd and it became incredibly racist both times during the test.  The big data we have available reflects who we really are.

Are we using the AI technology the right way?

Peng T. Ong believes that we should be using AI and innovative technologies to address social ills and societal issues.  AI has the potential to improve the lives of many people in the developing world and emerging economies.

AI used in the right and a positive way has the potential to give us superpowers.  Machines do not necessarily have to take over our jobs but rather work beside us to make our lives and jobs easier.

For example, we could one day have a digital assistant on our laptops that will automatically take care of your emails, online tasks, and responsibilities as soon as you open your laptop for the day.

AI may not in the near future take over our jobs but machines can certainly make us more productive.

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