If you thought the Internet and the iPhone were game-changing technologies, their impact looks set to pale into insignificance when compared to the radical shifts that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will bring.
AI will not just change the game – it will completely rewrite the rules, transform the players and revolutionise the arena in which the game is played.
You only need to look at what is happening in Sweden, where some commuters catch trains by swiping a biometric chip in their hand, and at start-up hub Epicenter, around 150 workers use implanted microchips to open doors, use printers and purchase drinks.
According to expert evidence given to a House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Committee in Britain, the next generation of implants is likely to include nanotechnology capable of healing disease or augmenting human intelligence to the degree where we can control our environment with our thoughts.
“Utilising technology which is already being explored today we see the creation of technology that can meld the biological with the technological, and so be able to enhance human cognitive capability directly, potentially offering greatly improved mental, as well as being able to utilise vast quantities of computing power to augment our own thought processes,” said IBM inventor John McNamara.
“Using this technology, embedded in ourselves and in our surroundings, we will begin to be able to control our environment with thought and gestures alone.”
In this brave new world where humans and technologies are intimately integrated, where is the line between man and machine? As chips and implants become more sophisticated and we increasingly rely on AI to make or inform decisions, it could become difficult to tell the difference between our own thoughts and those instilled by the technology.
Currently the law only says you’re guilty if you’ve committed a physical act, so what happens when our thoughts have the potential to act as weapons … or even to be used against us?
Cybercriminals are already leveraging machine learning and AI systems to implement cyberattacks against corporate systems and digital networks. Our ability to meet this challenge requires cybersecurity experts to develop ever more sophisticated, automated responses capable of morphing and modifying themselves just as quickly as the attack vectors do.
Adrian Turner, CEO of digital innovation group Data61, says the need to develop self-defending networks and systems to protect our digital assets is one of many reasons why Australia needs to build our own AI capability.
“We need sovereign capability both to protect our digital assets as well as to extract extra value from those assets,” he said. “What’s at stake is $10-15 trillion dollars by 2025. This convergence of ICT systems with material sciences and biology is as profound a shift as when we moved from using tools and manual labour to industrialisation.”
Data61 is dedicating enormous resources to AI and machine learning, collaborating with leading organisations in Australia and overseas to solve problems and push the boundaries in areas relating to cyberphysical systems, decision sciences, federated systems and more.
“Because of AI, industry boundaries are being redrawn,” he said, pointing to Tesla’s move into the energy market and Apple’s expansion into healthcare. “The NRMA is putting sensors in the bush to create an early-warning system for bushfires so they’re evolving to become a safety company.”
Mr Turner said the emergence of scalable platforms means there is tremendous advantage for companies that are first to achieve scale.
“Platform economics is driving a situation where companies are developing the tools and rules for others to co-create value on their platform. Once a platform is established, you can’t compete with it. Companies like PayPal, Netflix, Alibaba and Amazon are all accelerating as they scale because of those monopolistic tendencies.”
China is emerging as major player in the AI domain, committing billions in funding for advanced research and AI start-ups, and growing global companies like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, which last week overtook Facebook in valuation for the first time. China filed more than 8,000 AI patents in five years to 2015, a 190 per cent growth rate that significantly outpaces other markets.
A new report by Goldman Sachs has confirmed China’s potential to become a global contender in AI by leveraging its huge and connected population to generate vast amounts of data.
“China understandably generates 13 percent of the digital information globally. By 2020, we expect this to grow to around 20 percent to 25 percent as China’s economy emerges as the world’s largest,” stated the report.
Australia must move quickly to identify areas where we can claim first mover advantage and develop our own scalable platforms to have a global impact.
In recent years we’ve seen success stories emerge in the form of Atlassian, Canva, Seek, MYOB and more. However, success in the AI game demands a more collaborative and open-minded approach where we stop trying to protect the goal posts and charge out onto the field, willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Perhaps if we applied the mindset that just won us a berth in the FIFA World Cup, we could also win AI gold.