By Thomas LaRock, Head Geek, SolarWinds

Artificial Intelligence: Boon or Bane?

Crowned as one of the leading technological trailblazers of 2019, artificial intelligence (AI) innovations push the frontier of digital possibilities every day. The spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence in the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) is predicted to grow at a five-year CAGR of 69.8% to US$5.0 billion in 2021, according to this report by IDC*. To ensure a sustainable AI ecosystem that can be enjoyed by businesses and consumers, governments around the world are fervently looking into regulating the use of AI technology to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders.

In Singapore, the government has released a framework for private sector organisations using AI, which provides detailed and readily implementable guidance to combat the potential complications of AI adoption. However, while the boons of AI are not unfamiliar, the limitations of AI[MJ1] are not quite represented. Before enterprises dive into sprucing up business processes with AI, here are the good and the bad that you need to know.

Human Discernment Remains Essential

When it comes to AI, some people still jump to the myth of sophisticated human-like robots taking over. However, the interactive responses from these AI-run machines are simply pre-programmed algorithms mining through a vault of data sets, which then serve a predefined response. While this works wonders for projection of data, the other factors contributing to decision-making processes, such as personal experiences, business acumen, and creativity, are lacking. This prevents the wider application of AI into the creative service industries that operate beyond statistically sound outcomes.

For example, Chef Watson, the AI robot developed by IBM, “created recipes using its flavour algorithm, with only limited human assistance in refining the flavour profiles”—the results were positive, but not without a dash of confusing recipes, like the Austrian Chocolate Burrito.

Recognise the Data Bias

AI can generate strong statistic-backed solutions based on the richness of the data vault with which it’s equipped. However, this reliance of quality and hygiene of data left a crippling flawthe inherent bias that exists in user-generated data. User-generated data is laden with personal opinions, cultural influence, and social background that may distort the semantics of the data. If the data is extracted without context, literal interpretation of it could lead to subpar performance.

Undeniably, use cases such as Chef Watson represent AI’s potential in supplementing human creativity and behaviours. However, for AI to operate independently without human direction, more needs to be done to help expand its cognitive abilities beyond programming rules.

The Silver Lining

The good news is that some markets, such as Singapore, have recognised these setbacks and are taking steps towards ensuring AI initiatives are market ready. In Singapore, the government has been partnering with industry experts and engaging in cross-sector partnerships to put in place programmes to train participants to understand the application and usability of AI technology. For example, the industry-centric AI for Industry (AI4I) programme provides those working in technically inclined roles with a curriculum that aims to hone their coding proficiency and data literacy. This better equips them with the skillset to develop powerful algorithms and exercise informed discretion, mitigating the weakness of inherent data bias permeating AI technology. With an overarching transformation road map, the government will be able to oversee progress in AI technology applied in tandem with other digital initiatives. This nurtures a comprehensive regulatory system that will position Singapore to better combat the limitations of AI while exploiting the possibilities it brings.

What Now?

To date, AI has helped augment capabilities across many job functions and industries by reducing human errors. It has also intelligently flagged bottlenecks and inefficiencies to be improved, highlighted opportunities by leveraging empirical predictions, and filled in gaps in operations to boost the operating capacity of existing technology. From eliminating healthcare inefficiencies to empowering aging economies, AI promises a solution to the problems plaguing different industries. Looking to the future, greater optimization of existing AI capabilities is necessary for it to transition from supporting technology to a competent replacement of human abilities, taking on some of the manual tasks to leave room for greater strategic thinking and innovation.

*IDC Press Release: IDC Expects APeJ Spending on Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence to Reach $5.0 Billion in 2021, March 28, 2018


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