Why We Are Optimistic About AI

Conversations about AI often start with trying to understand the impact it will have on us. As AI continues to gain a prominent place on the global stage, there is a wariness about its impacts. The media often likes to portray the future of AI more along the lines of Terminator than the way we tend to see it. We at Stradigi AI imagine a world with optimized supply chains, better jobs and advances in medicine, to name but a few. There is plenty to be optimistic about.

We are having these conversations around our water cooler (or more like Slack) on a daily basis. I thought that given that I have the privilege of working with some of the sharpest minds in AI, I’d share some of these ideas. I asked a few of my colleagues “What makes you optimistic about the growth of AI?”

Here’s what they had to say:

A More Holistic Approach to Mental Health

Emily, Data Annotator

I’m really excited to see advancements in Natural Language Understanding (NLU), particularly in relation to mental health. I see a path towards a more holistic and natural approach to specific disorders, such as schizophrenia. Diagnostics will be more precise, allowing doctors to track patients more closely, pinpointing first episode psychosis. Through methods like Time Series Analysis, alongside NLU, doctors and scientists will co-create preventative monitoring tools for the future that have the potential to eliminate (or at least reduce the impact of) neurodegeneration from untreated psychosis.

Reducing Food and Water Waste

Manny, Director of Product

I’m most intrigued by how we can help the environment. Minimizing waste, water consumption and addressing global food shortages in particular; these are all connected and there is every reason to believe AI can help address some of these problems.

Where waste minimization and food shortages intersect present an application that AI is very well suited to solve. Humans waste a third of food being produced for consumption. That’s roughly 1.3 billion tonnes of food thrown in the trash globally every year. Knowing many developing countries are dealing with mass malnutrition, it’s a really sad state of affairs. AI can assist with supply chain, so food can actually make it to your table instead of rotting unpicked, in transit or in your fridge for that matter (as it gets to you sooner).

It takes 320 liters of water to grow 1 avocado and it’s being grown in places with massive water shortages. AI-powered robotic systems already allow farmers to drastically reduce the amount of water needed, with extreme precision. Further to this, we can empower farmers to predict what crops they should grow where and when based on water availability, soil analysis, climate patterns and economic predictive models.

A Democratic Technology

Younes, Research Scientist

Amongst all industrial breakthroughs, AI is probably the most democratic one, in the sense that it has been available to anyone with a computer and a desire to learn since its early stages. If I’m not mistaken, people have been posting educational videos on YouTube since before the AI hype back in 2012. In addition to theoretical knowledge, software libraries aimed at making AI (mostly machine learning) accessible to anybody with programming skills have been flourishing. For those reasons, I’m optimistic that a wide range of communities will be able to leverage the capabilities of AI and use it for the common good.

Building a New Customer Service Paradigm

Tyler, Director of UI/UX Design

As more and more companies realize that to achieve great success, they will need to put customer service at the core of their businesses. What converts better than flashy banner ads and gimmicky landing pages, is offering great service.  If the customer is always right, businesses should know earlier, faster, and be able to get to resolution faster. While it’s not necessarily diagnosing early-stage cancer, solving world hunger or addressing systemic poverty – improving customer service will free up many resources for businesses, allow workers to focus on better problems, and make customers happier.

Unlocking Human Potential With Better Jobs

Hélène, Legal Counsel

I’m optimistic about the opportunity AI will give us to use our minds to do more creative thinking. The outsourcing of repetitive tasks to AI will result in an environment where we have more time to pursue complex projects and focus on building creative solutions. AI has the potential to provide us with the opportunity to unlock our full potential. It will push us to reflect on what it means to be human, and certainly the role of work in our lives. We will need to have safeguards of course, regulatory, social, and otherwise, but this next phase will be like pre-Internet and post-Internet eras; we won’t know how we lived without it.

Elitsa, Business Analyst

By reducing manual and redundant jobs, AI will allow people to redefine the meaning of work. Instead of wasting their talents performing tedious daily tasks, people would be able to channel their real passion in creating products and providing services that can bring value to our society. It will put humans in the role as decision makers while AI is there to assist in the process.

Better Drugs Through Reduced Costs in Discovery and Trials

Ben, Business Analyst

Reducing the cost of research in the process of developing new drugs is a great reason why I am optimistic about AI. There are two layers of this process that costs a potential $2.5 billion for a single new drug, which stand to benefit from AI: drug development and clinical tests.

First, researchers in the lab need to discover a drug that produces the primary effect they are interested in, while mitigating any side effects. Due to their complex composition, no drug produces just one effect, which makes drug discovery and development difficult and risky. There are many AI companies trying to solve this by using methods such as running massive simulations, repurposing existing drugs, and discovering new molecules altogether.

Second, after a candidate drug is identified, there is a rigorous approval process that requires several rounds of clinical trials with target patients. The big search costs that pharma companies encounter here is recruitment. Basically, how do I find enough people who have the appropriate biomarkers and medical condition to validate my findings? This becomes nearly impossible in the field of rare diseases, and up to 40% of clinical trials fail due to insufficient recruitment. AI could offer very strong upsides here, significantly reducing the resources required.

Plenty of Reasons for (Cautious) Optimism

Ultimately, AI is implicated in many aspects of our lives already. Your phone uses it. In all likelihood, your bank does, as does your insurance company, airline and your healthcare provider. Governments on multiple levels are rolling out their AI strategies for better urban resource management.

It’s hard to make predictions. Technology has a history of being used for good and bad. As optimists, we see this revolution as having the potential to be different. There’s a very strong movement towards Ethical AI and AI for Good – that has not (to my knowledge) existed with any other technological revolution, and certainly not on this scale. That alone should leave us with a sense of optimism.

I’ll leave you with this gem from Habib, one of our research scientists: “I am optimistic about AI because AI is all about optimization!” As long as we optimize for good, there’s ample reason to be optimistic about AI.


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