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Ankur Prakash, Wipro Limited Vice President for New Growth and Emerging Markets

The fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Process automation and heuristics are all developing at a rapid pace.

While we don’t yet know exactly how they will affect our lives, these trends will forever reshape society, business, and potentially even the very nature of humanity.

The inevitable debate that’s raging is how automation, AI and Robotics will replace human effort. The right approach is to consider how one can practically leverage AI tools (both as an individual and in business), to elevate ourselves into higher-value activities, and to add more value to our customers or stakeholders.

It seems likely that the most repetitive or physically-exhausting tasks will increasingly be handed-over to AI-powered robots – as the costs of this migration continue to drop – so re-tooling ourselves for the future becomes an urgent necessity.

But this is just the first rung on a very long ladder. The more exciting applications involve AI and human intelligence blending, achieving unprecedented outcomes:

AI driving profitable innovation

AI doesn’t just make it possible to reduce costs or find new efficiencies. In fact, it has the power to completely change the nature of the services that we create. For instance, one could use an app that’s installed in their car or on their phone, which automatically adjusts one’s insurance premium based on the way that they drive – with information flowing in real-time and in very granular detail. Once designed, a solution like this could scale limitlessly.

In this case, AI isn’t simply improving the way that insurers model their risk, but is entirely changing the risk assessment frameworks. While this may not seem like a dramatic change, these kinds of services will tend to have a ripple effect, where more applications for AI come to the surface.

Solving critical global issues

Some of the most interesting applications for AI are for those businesses and organisations that are here to solve some of society’s most critical challenges – such as the planet’s sustainability, or access to healthcare, education, or other basic rights that are still out of reach for most of the developing world.

Powered by the right data-sets, with AI we can forecast when diseases are likely to break out, share forewarnings on natural disasters. To some extent, we can start taking steps to prevent disaster before it strikes. Another example is timely medical support that can be delivered remotely in developing countries by adding mobility and computer vision to AI, speeding up healthcare services where desperately under-resourced.

Changing the workplace

While AI will ultimately become infused into every process and system within the organisation – including the areas of human capital management – there will always be the need for judgement, strategic thinking, and the ability to weigh and contextualise emotional dimensions to any decision.

In fact, in an increasingly AI-saturated world, these uniquely-human traits will become all the more important. Instead of seeing strategic decision-making as a competition between the humans and the robots, we should see AI as a supportive layer to inform greater clarity of thinking and decision-making by the organisations’ leadership.

What about the ‘dark side’ fears?

But some people fear that AI will herald a dystopian era, where powerful armies of bots are activated by malicious forces, ultimately destroying society. But these dark visions may be a little too alarmist. As we grow comfortable with new AI technology, we’ll come to realise that, like anything, it can be used for good or for bad. Philosophically speaking, the world operates on the premise that there’s more good than bad.

Consider that even our most basic concepts – such as money – are an essentially positive thing, but can also be used for destructive purposes (money can turn to greed, for instance). Or, in the technology realm, we’ve seen the dark side of software with the recent widespread malware attacks, which were orchestrated to affect millions of users.

AI will be no different

There’s a responsibility that lies with all of us, from the ordinary user, to technology firms. We must ensure that we create the systems that will contain the ‘dark side’ of AI, self-regulating ecosystems that ultimately mean we use AI for good, rather than for bad.

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