Lisias Loback from the BCS Internet Specialist Group discusses where AI is heading and how it might impinge on our lives.

This week I was surprised by a robot! I was not available to receive a phone call from a recruiter, and after a few minutes, I received an email with a work proposal, and an invitation to connect with a virtual assistant called RoboAssistant (not the real name). The suggestion seemed similar to leaving a message on an answering machine and choosing one or several options with the numeric keypad guiding me into an interactive voice response (IVR) model. I was curious. I knew beforehand that I would interact with a robot, but I still clicked the link and started a conversation. It all went well considering the fact that I hate talking to machines. At least until now.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world, and for the better. AI has a fantastic ability to help you interpret certain situations within a given context because of the immense processing power that computers provide nowadays. Thanks to this, billions of decisions per second can be made, covering virtually all scenarios. That is so true that Google released new features last month for its Google Assistant. Among other numerous tasks that Google Assistant can perform, there is the ability to make phone calls to reserve a table in a restaurant, utilising data from the user and making sense of the context. We were all stunned by the demo (which you can watch here: Google Assistant demo). I am looking forward to using this technology as soon as possible. It could make life easier. Alternatively, who wants to be waiting for half an hour when they try to reach a call centre to solve a problem?

Machine learning and deep learning will allow computers to communicate with each other without the need for pre-setting rules. They will discover the context as the ‘conversation’ unfolds. The applications are diverse and are one of the significant innovations in the industry.

In general, we have seen significant developments in AI regarding specific mechanical tasks (automation) that replace humans doing repetitive tasks. That brings immense technological and societal challenges, such as the substitution of jobs by robots and the redundancy of a whole set of professions. The other area where AI is flourishing is the analysis of big data. The analytical capacity of a computer is enormous, surpassing humans by far. The amount of computational power helps.

We still have a long way to go in the development of AI. New research is needed. As we continue to take this route, we must prepare ourselves for the future. Embrace the changes, the robots, bots and the AI and be better at what you do. If your job is to enter data into an Excel sheet or perform mechanical and repetitive tasks, then you should be worried because AI is coming to get you! Humans still do the expert work, including all intuitive and empathetic tasks. It does not mean that we will be doing it in the future. Maybe we will teach the computers!