The Bots are taking over!

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Pretty scary, huh? Especially if you picture a sci-fi movie, where machines, commanded by a powerful auto-managed software intelligence, undermine humans and make the survivors their slaves. But let’s throw in some facts here.

It all starts with Digital Transformation. Seriously. Why? Because of the wrong emphasis. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, companies tend to focus on Digital, but the key here is Transformation. Being Digital does not mean being better (tube-lover musicians agree with me here). Businesses that evolve their processes to allow people to work from anywhere without losing productivity, even speeding up some tasks, are the ones focusing on Transformation.

“This doesn’t mean Artificial Intelligence is harmless”, you may say. Let’s take a look at both words separately. While Artificial only means not natural, Intelligence is the driver here. Pick any two animals. Same breed, different species, doesn’t matter. What makes one more intelligent than the other? A combination of processing skills (“brainpower”) and how one reacts after some stimulus. The result of that reaction gives us the perception of intelligence degrees. The same concept applies to AI. What makes one machine more intelligent than the other? A combination of processing skills (“brainpower”) and how one reacts after some stimuli.

“You’re kidding me, right?”, you would say and laugh. “How come Artificial Intelligence compares to Animal (humans included) Intelligence?”, an intrigued person might ask. Excellent question! If intelligence means processing skills (or brainpower), animals and computers have. The key is the reaction to the stimulus. While animals have some instinctive behaviors and learn from experience, machine actions follow scripts. A computer (hardware) will produce a result after receiving information and processing it using a programmed script (software).

“If a computer only reacts, what about the Bots?”, you may question. “They act, do scary stuff on their own.” Ok, let’s put aside movies and alike for now. I explained that anything with intelligence reacts to stimulus. I also mentioned animals learn from experience. “Hah! You are saying computers are dumb.” Not at all. A machine will do what we program it to do. The richer the program, the better the machine could react to stimuli. And we can help machines to learn. Yes, I’m talking about Machine Learning. The goal of ML is to train the computer to be better at specific tasks by leveraging algorithms that teach it how to behave. You may think about ML as a structured way to use past results to improve future results. We are talking about result analysis that improves the process of doing specific tasks. This is ultimately learning, the same process we went through back at school, acquiring knowledge through past examples (books, teachers).

Now, back to your fear of the Bots taking over everything. If you agree that:

  • Transformation is key, being it Digital or not;
  • Intelligence means processing skills, being it Artificial or not, and;
  • Learning means acquiring knowledge, even if used by a Machine.

Then you should not worry, my friend. The Bots would learn what we program them to, and they would get better at tasks we program them to do. We are many years away from what you saw in that movie, for the good and the bad.