For the last half-decade, the most exciting, contentious, and downright awe-inspiring topic in technology has been artificial intelligence. Titans and geniuses have lauded AI’s potential for change, glorifying its application in nearly every industry imaginable. Such praise, however, is also met with tantamount disapproval from similar influencers and self-made billionaires, not to mention a good part of Hollywood’s recent sci-fi flicks. AI is a phenomenon that will never go down easy – intelligence and consciousness are prerogatives of the living, and the inevitability of their existence in machines is hard to fathom, even with all those doomsday-scenario movies and books.
On that note, however, it is nonetheless a certainty we must come to accept, and most importantly, understand. I’m here to discuss the implications of AI in two major areas: medicine and finance. Often regarded as the two pillars of any nation’s stable infrastructure, the industries are indispensable. The people that work in them, however, are far from irreplaceable, and it’s only a matter of time before automation makes its presence known.
Let’s begin with perhaps the most revolutionary change – the automated diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. A doctor is one of humanity’s greatest professions. You heal others and are well compensated for your work. That being said, modern medicine and the healthcare infrastructure within which it is lies, has much room for improvement. IBM’s artificial intelligence machine, Watson, is now as good as a professional radiologist when it comes to diagnosis, and it’s also been compiling billions of medical images (30 billion to be exact) to aid in specialized treatment for image heavy fields like pathology and dermatology.
Fields like cardiology are also being overhauled with the advent of artificial intelligence. It used to take doctors nearly an hour to quantify the amount of blood transported with each heart contraction, and it now takes only 15 seconds using the tools we’ve discussed. With these computers in major hospitals and clinics, doctors can process almost 260 million images a day in their respective fields – this means finding skin cancers, blood clots, and infections all with unprecedented speed and accuracy, not to mention billions of dollars saved in research and maintenance.
Next up, the hustling and overtly traditional offices of Wall Street (until now). If you don’t listen to me, at least recognize that almost 15,000 startups already exist that are working to actively disrupt finance. They are creating computer-generated trading and investment models that blow those crafted by the error-prone hubris of their human counterparts out of the water. Bridgewater Associated, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, is already cutting some of their staff in favor of AI-driven models, and enterprises like Sentient, Wealthfront, Two Sigma, and so many more have already made this transition. They shed the silk suits and comb-overs for scrappy engineers and piles of graphics cards and server racks. The result? Billions of dollars made with fewer people, greater certainty, and much more comfortable work attire.
So the real question to ask is where do we go from here? Stopping the development of these machines is pointless. They will come to exist, and they will undoubtedly do many of our jobs better than we can; the solution, however, is through regulation and a hard-nosed dose of checks and balances. 40% of U.S. jobs can be swallowed by artificial intelligence machines by the early 2030s, and if we aren’t careful about how we assign such professions, and the degree to which we automate them, we are looking at an incredibly serious domestic threat. Get very excited about what AI can do for us, and start thinking very deeply about how it can integrate with humans, lest utter anarchy.