#ThinkPH 2017: The future of AI and the human experience
MANILA, Philippines – Is a bleak, futuristic era of technology upon us?
During the #ThinkPH Summit at the SMX Convention Center last July 15, a group of innovation leaders discussed technology’s role in human behavior. The speakers were Arvin Yason, Managing Director of Accenture Technology in the Philippines; Stephanie Sy, founder of Thinking Machines; and Shahab Shabibi, co-founder of Machine Ventures. The talk was moderated by Mia Umanos, data science expert.
Does the trajectory of current technologies parallel that of television series Black Mirror? Does it truly portray the potential state of technology in the near future?
“It leaves the viewer thinking some ethical questions about what’s in store,” Mia said.
Where are we?
In case you were wondering, we’re not going to fall in love with robots or artificial intelligence anytime soon.
“That situation where AI gains sentience is still 40-50 years away,” said Arvin.
What we have now is called narrow AI, an example of which are chat bots and under-the-radar applications. The type of AI usually presented in films – ones which can feel, think on their own – are called general AI.
Stephanie said data for the latter isn’t accessible to everyone. “It’s a competitive advantage. The volume of data you’d need to build that is probably not gonna be available to you or to people in general.”
Narrow AI provides solutions to basic problems, and we can only go further. “Big companies are setting the tone on how AI can be used. Apple, Google, Facebook – these guys are making it much easier for developers to come up with real-life applications,” said Shahab.
How is human expectation going to change?
Scrolling through our Facebook feed and seeing content irrelevant to us now feels jarring – and that’s because AI usually presents what we want to see.
More than satisfying human needs, AI enhances daily routines. But just how tuned will AI be to our problems? How quickly will it respond to commands?
Arvin added, “Does the AI do something without prompting from the human? Is that too
Designers therefore have to answer: how far will technology go to do the job for us?
There’s a lot of ground to cover in terms of ethics. “We need to make sure… that the machine is being trained in the neutral way, or beneficial way, that will result in non-biased behaviors, whether it’s a chat bot or something else,” said Arvin.
What are the entry points?
You’d be surprised to learn that some of Stephanie’s teammates have backgrounds in biology and accounting. Meanwhile, Shahab has employees with no college degrees.
“Since it’s a new industry, it’s very easy to catch up. What’s important with AI is actually the logic and the thought process,” Shahab said.
Stephanie added that one doesn’t need years of experience in a specialized field. If you’re
interested, you can look up resources online. Start with Coursera’s courses on daily science, then progress to Stanford’s computer science machinery classes.
“You don’t have the excuse of saying there’s nowhere to learn. This is the magic the internet has brought to us,” she said.
Mia added, “We’re learning it as we’re doing it. It’s up to you to be able to have the moxie to
check it out and develop the skills.”
The human element
The process of innovation involves understanding the human experience, recognizing its
problems, and looking for solutions.
“All you need to know is where you are today and where you want to be. You can't necessarily predict the way to get there. But every once in a while, ask yourself, have I gotten any closer to the vision?” said Shahab.
Innovation involves more than tools. You need the ability to learn on your own quickly, work well with a diverse team, and take the initiative to study beyond what’s assigned to you.
If your early models don’t work, don’t be disheartened. Stephanie said, “Maybe your first
solutions are kinda bad but sorta work – that’s good enough. Keep going!” – Rappler.com