The AI race is here. And Australia is at the back of the pack.

China is aiming to make the AI industry a driver of expansion for its economy by 2020. The country wants to be a global leader, with a goal of $59 billion of AI output by 2025. Top areas for development include augmented reality, virtual reality, intelligent vehicles and robots, and AI software and hardware.

In the United States, 20% of the country’s listed companies are investing in automation. Giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla have already begun investing billions in replacing human tasks with computers.

Japan has an aversion to mass immigration and a shrinking population– meaning it’s perfectly placed to embrace robots and AI in the home and workforce. And two-thirds of the Middle East is happy to replace human doctors with robots and AI.

Australians Consider AI to be a Threat

Australia has been slow to embrace AI.  A study by Infosys found that major businesses in Australia invested approximately $7.9 million each in AI last year. But the country placed last in both future plans to integrate AI, and the skills required for AI takeup.

23% of business leaders admitted that their company is completely lacking the skills needed to be able to capitalise on AI.

The question? Why are so many business owners scared of AI? And what can be done about it? Here are a few of the main concerns:


Too often, people think about artificial intelligence, and they imagine the plot of the latest sci-fi thriller. They worry that by developing AI, humanity is risking “singularity”- when AI will surpass humans in intelligence, leading to a robot revolution.

Maybe, instead of humans controlling AI, AI will control us.

Sure. these are interesting thing sto think about. And a recent Twitter conversation between Eton Musk and Mark Zuckerberg proves that even the most knowledgeable experts disagree about the implications of AI.

But here’s the thing: While we should definitely be thinking long-term about the impact of AI, these issues are not pressing. This situation may not happen for hundreds of years, if ever.

Right now, there is no connection between the best AI available (like IBM Watson), and self-aware computers understanding and expressing emotions and engaging in common sense reasoning.

Job Losses

Artificial intelligence is a huge opportunity for mankind. It will reshape what it means to work, and how we create wealth. Today, AI is technology that’s all about taking massive amounts of information from one domain and using it to make decisions based on that information. An example is a bank implementing AI which uses loan repayment histories to decide whether or not an individual should have their loan approved, and whether it would be profitable for the bank.

This is the type of AI we’re seeing everywhere. And as it spreads, it’s guaranteed to eliminate many jobs. radiologists, paralegals, bond and stock traders, telemarketers, customer service representatives, and bank tellers will gradually be replaced.

Over time, we can expect to see autonomous and semi-autonomous hardware like robots and self-driving cars which will displace delivery workers, drivers, construction workers, and factory workers.

No wonder so many people are concerned.

But AI is destined to displace these workers. As more and more businesses around the world see the massive cost savings and productivity increases, we’ll see a snowball effect of automation.

The problem with the doomsday warnings is that they’d like nothing more than for humanity to put artificial intelligence back in its box and shove it under the bed. Since that’s not going to happen, the best thing we can do is be prepared for these job losses.

People in the fields that will be impacted will need to be retrained or educated in tasks that AI can’t do. While artificial intelligence is great at logic, it’s no good at jobs involving planning, creativity, or cross-domain thinking. AI also isn’t great at “people skills” or anything requiring human interaction.

In the future, we may see an increase in volunteer work and service jobs. One thought? A universal basic income. Financial help would be offered to those whose jobs are replaced with AI, allowing them to receive training in a new field.

This could mean that the majority of people will be doing work that they truly find meaningful. Imagine the lowered rates of depression and increased happiness if more people were enjoying their work.

Ethical Concerns

Every computer or robot is programmed by a human. And that human has their own entrenched ideas, ethics, and morals.

Imagine a robot caregiver looking after an elderly man. The robot brings the man his medication, which the man refuses to take. Does the robot try to force him to take the medication for his health (overriding the man’s autonomy), or allow him to miss a dose?

When AI is deciding whether to approve a loan, is it allowed to consider race and sex?

Then there are the ethical concerns about using AI itself. Who takes legal, ethical, and moral responsibility for the actions of a robot? The user, the manufacturer, or the programmer?

Another big concern? AI being used as lethal autonomous weapons in war.

While these are all relevant concerns, the sky is not falling. Earlier this month, 116 AI companies and founders of robotics signed a petition which called for the banning of killer robots.

Smart people are already responding to these ethical concerns. The Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society has filled one of these gaps. The group consists of IBM, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, with Apple joining in on talks.

The goal is to ensure the trustworthiness of AI, ensuring that the technologies are reliable, secure, and ethical, and help the human race, rather than hurt it. The group is also aiming to help diffuse the misperceptions and fears around AI.

As you can see, AI is here to stay. Sure, like any new technology, there will be naysayers insisting that it’s destined to devastate mankind. But there are also people who still believe the earth is flat.

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