Human-level AI is ‘decades away’, says futurist

Artificial intelligence is “not going to take our jobs immediately”, a leading futurist has said, suggesting that “human-level AI” will not become “general” for at least another 30 years.

Speaking at the first session of The Adviser’s US Study Tour 2017 on Wednesday (1 November), Jonathan Miranda, director of strategy, technology at ‎Salesforce, did say, however, that the technology will “disrupt everything before it and fundamentally change it, because it [is] going to make it that much more powerful”.

He added: “But AI is not going to take our jobs immediately; the reality is that anything that is human-level AI or a general AI is decades away.”

Mr Miranda said that AI in CRM systems will have a “huge impact on business”,  adding that — for the time being, at least — jobs are safe, because the technology is still not able to provide that “human” experience and lacks empathy.

Noting that Time magazine ran a story in the 1960s warning about job losses in the face of technology, the director said that with every technology wave, human beings have had a negative reaction.

“It happens every single time. Every single time a new technology comes out, we think it’s going to destroy everything, but in reality we always have jobs and employment go up.

“And part of that is just because of the failure of imagination. It’s easier to think about the negative impacts of the future rather than the positive.

“[But] technology has always created more jobs. They’re different jobs, jobs change, but there is always an increase in jobs.”

Mr Miranda then highlighted that the jobs that are subject to disruption will be the ones that have to do with data entry or that have a large amount of data processing within them. As such, this could change the face of mortgage broking by removing the loan processing, administrative and compliance jobs.

“AI in CRM has a huge impact on businesses.... AI [can] change the game by taking away one little task that was generally a painstaking process for an employee and change it so it is easier from beginning to end.

“[But] when do we actually get the human level of intelligence, when do we get general AI? In reality, what we’ve seen is that it will take 30, 40 years.”

According to Mr Miranda, that is because artificial intelligence still needs to “learn manners” and context.

“This allows it to have a conversation a lot better, it allows artificial intelligence to have manners. There’s a problem at the moment that if you talk about ‘Alexa’ and Amazon Alexa is in the room, she will wake up and starts answering me. That’s not correct — it should know the manners. It should know that I’m doing a presentation right now and don’t want to be bothered.

“There are context models and manners that AI has to learn and that’s the next big wave.”

The Salesforce futurist elaborated: “AI is not meant to replace people but to make them more productive.

“If you do data collection or data processing, or predictable physical work, you will have that done with AI and all the other jobs are going to become the number one focus.

“If you spend half the time in front of the customer and half the time entering data, it’s going to change. They’re going to be in front of customers at all times.”

Mr Miranda, therefore, suggested that people should “focus on the human skills of empathy and connection”.

He explained: “Because human beings have a lot of tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge that humans have will help you have a better conversation and better connection with people than the AI ever will for a very long time.

“[So] it’s about the customer experience. Where employees were spending a lot of time behind the computer screen or on the phone and not on the customer, they were not spending a lot of time trying to figure out: ‘How can I make this a painless process for you?’ So, [this will] be changing the role to make it more empathetic to have a better relationship and a stronger experience for customers.”

The Adviser’s US Study Tour 2017 is designed exclusively for Australia’s elite mortgage brokers and third-party industry leaders. It focuses on innovation, tech, data and how the best US mortgage brokers dominate their markets.

Find out more about The Adviser’s US Study Tour.

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