The world of work is rapidly changing. Jobs that were once done by humans can now be done by computers, and it’s not just manual labor jobs that are affected. The increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence means that even high-level knowledge workers’ jobs are under threat.
We’re already beginning to see the effects: in a recent survey of over 2,000 professionals conducted by HBR, 52% reported feeling threatened by automation (even though only 13% said they had been replaced so far). And 33% said their job was at risk within five years from now. In this article we’ll explore what the future might look like when robots take over our workplaces; how AI could change society as a whole; and what we can do about it, if anything.
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Artificial Intelligence is intelligence exhibited by either a machine or a software application. AI has been around for quite some time but only in the last few decades has it advanced to the point where some machines can outstrip the general human population in certain tasks, such as chess playing and basic arithmetic. Even though the field of artificial intelligence is just now entering its third generation, it’s still very much an emerging field with many outstanding problems that need solving for any sort of generalized artificial intelligence to be feasible.
The term “artificial intelligence” was coined by John McCarthy at a conference on the subject in 1956. The following year, both Norbert Wiener (the mathematician who had coined the term cybernetics) and Marvin Minsky agreed that the field of “artificial intelligence” needed to be formally defined and pursued. But it wasn’t until 1958 that a conference was held at Dartmouth College for the purpose of doing just that. By 1960, Marvin Minsky had created the first artificial neural network, which he called STACOM (for Stochastic Network). The following year saw the creation of two more neural networks, one by Ronald J. Frank and the other by A. M. Terrell . By 1962, Frank had created the first robot able to visually respond to its environment — a “mechanical idiot” that could drive around on its own for up to five minutes before crashing into something.