Articles & stories Artificial Intelligence and robotics may ‘transform the world’

Artificial Intelligence and robotics may ‘transform the world’
The pace of technological development in areas like robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) has been frenetic. The impact is already being felt in new investment opportunities but also in lost jobs. While it may be too early to pinpoint what the ultimate result of all this disruption to existing business models will be, what is for certain is that there will be far-reaching impact and significant change.

Technological leaps like robotics and AI have happened before. The industrial and technological revolutions caused paradigm shifts in production. Digitization, including the rise of the internet, proved to be transformative to life and business. The next big shift is likely to be caused by AI and robotics, coming together in sectors such as manufacturing and financial technology to transform the way people work.  

“The world of the future belongs to those businesses who best work out how to use these new incredibly powerful tools to perform complex tasks,” said Jonathan Wilmot, Founder of WilmotML. “This [AI] is probably the most powerful, multi-purpose technology that we have seen invented.”

Machine learning “has the power to transform the world,” said Wilmot.

Understanding how robotics, AI and VR might alter our lives was a key topic of discussion when experts from these fields came together at the 20th Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference (AIC).

Despite the rapid advances seen in recent years, there is much progress that lies ahead, and a lot of questions about what AI can and cannot do.

“Humans can jump into another car and figure out how to drive it very quickly and AI can’t. That is one thing that most AI is not: creative with an imagination,” said Dr. David Hanson, CEO at Hanson Robotics and one of the world’s foremost experts on robotics and AI. “AI is very good in these narrow domains, and in some domains they exceed even the best human capabilities.”

So, are we at the beginning of a new era of technological innovation? And if so, what is the best way to turn this innovation into returns? The answer to the first question seems to be a resounding yes. The answer to the second may attract a wider range of views.

“The best investment will be those companies that have clear goals and intellectual property for artificial general intelligence, with opportunities for short-term upside,” said Hanson.

It may be that there is a perfect storm of phenomena that can enable a real step change in progress. A number of factors are coming together to drive much of this new innovation, including a plentiful supply of cheap computing power, more sources of funding and collaborative efforts to share data.

The potential returns are enormous. The VR industry, for example, could be worth US$600 billion by 2023 as VR headsets emerge as the biggest development in computer interfaces since the mouse and keyboard. At the moment, there are an estimated 6 million VR headsets in circulation but 100 million will be needed before the technology becomes mainstream.

Another key area of growth is the application of technology to parts of the financial services industry in order to increase the reach to consumers and lower transaction costs.

“Each wave of technology sweeps away what has been put in place before,” said John Bi, CFO at Zhong An Insurance.

All these things – robotics, AI, new financial technologies – add up to massive changes on a global scale.

But, says historian Dr. Peter Frankopan, Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College in Oxford, change is not something to fear.

“Change is absolutely normal,” he said. “There is nothing you can do about it.”

In this new era of technological innovation, investors may not be able to do anything about change but there may be a lot they can do with it.