People have always been dreaming and thinking about what the future holds for them and humanity. Some brave souls like French artist Villemard in 1910, have provided illustrations of what they thought the future would be like.

It is inevitable for anyone who looks at the illustrations, to sneer at it. Almost none of the forms and most of the functions of the imagined future are a reality today. However, with a much shorter future timespan, the predictions do look better. Case in point – CIA’s 2015 predictions made in 2000 have been mostly accurate except for one major miss with regard to Africa.

So, if CIA and some of industry greats can do it why can’t an armchair futurologist. Let me take a shot at the future and imagine it, as driven, by Artificial intelligence (AI).

But first, what the heck is AI you ask – the best explanation I found is that it’s a computational system that can imitate human behavior &activity. This is either in the narrow sense of filing paper work with a bank, often called Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) or pursuing creative goals like composing music or creating new great works of Art, often called Artificial General intelligence (AGI). While the AGI remains a goal for long term, there have been significant strides made in the ANI field.

So, how would one go about teaching machines to take intelligent and informed decisions, at least in the ANI sense? This is done by a variety of techniques. This image published by Neota Logic, last year has come to represent the gamut of how a machine can learn about taking such decisions. If you want to understand the hype better, one good starting point will be the Udacity AI micro course. With the broad definition of AI out of the way, the next inevitable question is what the hype is all about. People who’re aware of AI’s technology background, will recognize that there was huge hype in the 1970s and early ‘80s with regard to the promises of AI, most of which did not pan out during that timeframe.

The one big difference between then and now is that the earlier hype cycle was academic driven (and to an extent was ahead of the market) while the current one is VC driven. So, if you follow the money, it is clear the investments that are being poured are bearing fruits, for now in the ANI field.

So, does this mean that the future of Humans need not apply, be soon upon us? It may be so, but the predictions given in the video are still slightly farfetched. While the societal level issues needs to be tackled with our collective will, my focus here is to see what can be expected from a business perspective, in the context of ANIs improvements.

For the purpose of better accuracy let me take an 8-10 year horizon for this prediction. With this timeframe, it is broadly agreed that the ANI will make significant impacts across multiple industries like defense/security, healthcare, Finance/Mortgage, Agriculture, Transport infrastructure et al. Here is a snapshot of the likely impact:

• Image and video tagging and classification will be automated by use of AI

• More money flows to quants as better algorithmic trading strategies are implemented

• Most healthcare data will be electronically stored. The market, if allowed to evolve, will become such that a patients’ past history should be visible to the doctor (& future expected claims, derived by the insurer)

• Traditionally, treatments of patients, both invasive and drugs based, uses a one-size-fits-all approach. I expect AI to help doctors improve treatments by precisely understanding individual need; (perhaps) delivering custom drugs & operations

• Mortgage & commercial loan underwriting will be automated with a combination of smart decisioning systems and probabilistic programs

• Agriculture (mostly in developed economies) is expected to become automated with Systems like John Deere’s AutoTrac - huge machines that plant crops in a far more uniform & accurate way, reducing agricultural processes overlaps in tilling, planting and fertilizing etc.

• Most of the commercial transport infrastructure like non-automated trains, planes, ships will move towards predictive maintenance from the current preventative maintenance According to Tractica, the likely business impact of such areas will be close to $50 Billion.

But this transition to an ANI driven world, will not be without value destruction and without pitfalls like increase in unemployment as more jobs are automated, widening wealth inequality, reinforcing existing biases and with the potential of bots creating, convincing fake videos to further impact politics. We will discuss this and more in future updates.

Welcome to the world of emergence, it will evolve to whatever it will evolve to be.


Editor's Note:
It's a delight to read one such perspective spanning across centuries, and industries. Kindly share your thoughts and comments, and help us share the delight with the world at large. Thank you. :-)

Ravi Baskaran

Ravi is a seasoned digital executive and leader. He currently works as Product Manager and Strategic Advisor. He is employed with Altisource Labs, Bangalore, and he calls himself a lazy futurologist.