A hyper-connected world, digital technologies as trailblazers of fundamental economic, political and societal changes. We had just begun to accept this world and to understand its mechanisms.
What is in store for us now, however, will eclipse any changes in digitalisation to date – a merging of man and machine. Dubbed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” by the World Economic Forum, this comprehensive computerisation of our work and private lives continues to learn ever faster with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
IT research and advisory company Gartner sees AI technologies such as “machine learning” or “cognitive expert advisors” on the forefront of what is known as “hype cycles”, which is why investments in AI are bigger than ever, especially in Silicon Valley. “AI will be much like electricity,” assumes futurologist Kevin Kelly.
In their Partnership on AI, leading tech companies including Google, Amazon and Facebook meanwhile combined their resources to explore how AI can benefit people and society. As part of its efforts, the potential of AI is to be discussed “openly” – with “transparency, shared commitment and understanding of ethics and responsibility.”
Stanford University’s 100 Year Study of Artificial Intelligence also primarily focusses on the opportunities created by AI. Following the same optimistic approach, the X Prize foundation and IBM lauched AI Competition, a crowd sourcing competition for applications including ideas on the use of AI in areas such as health, space travel, urban planning, education and civil rights.
All these efforts are driven by the hope that AI will have mostly positive effects. Ideally, or so the assumption goes, it will help us become better human beings; we will do useful work and resolve the true challenges of our times such as climate change.