“The robots are coming!” This is a common refrain we’ve all heard, and yet we shouldn’t fear technology or artificial intelligence (AI). Whether you identify as a tech geek or a tech novice, the fact is that 85% of Americans already use AI. Smart assistants in our homes, song recommendations from music streaming services, and even spam filters on email are all powered by AI.
At its most basic, AI is a powerful automation tool designed to augment what people can do. For us to take advantage of this technology, we should all have a good understanding of its capabilities.
Let’s take a look at five practical ways AI can improve people’s lives.
- AI can better our health
The current COVID-19 pandemic is top of mind for everyone, and health care is an area where AI can make a real impact. Already, AI diagnostics can cheaply diagnose a whole range of illnesses with clinical accuracy. As the sensors in our phones, watches and other devices that we carry and wear become less expensive, more common and more capable, and as AI advances, it’s not a science-fictional thought to imagine a world in which everyone has access to a virtual doctor who can tell when you’re getting sick before you know you are. Imagine if a virtual doctor could then either prescribe a course of action autonomously or refer you to a medical professional when your illness is beyond the ability of the AI to help.
- AI can help seniors be self-sufficient longer
Autonomous delivery bots can help elderly folks live self-sufficient and independent lives longer by delivering medicine, groceries and other necessities right to their front door. And in a crisis, including the current COVID-19 situation, autonomous delivery bots could bring vital goods to seniors so they don’t have to endanger their well-being by going to grocery stores or pharmacies.
- AI can empower people with disabilities
AI can help the more than 1 billion people with disabilities around the world by enabling computers to hear, see and reason with impressive accuracy. For example, an app called Seeing AI empowers individuals with visual impairment by describing people, objects and text around them.
- AI can save farmers precious time and resources
AI-powered drones can help farmers gather information on their crops in record time. Rather than farmers walking miles, a drone can quickly fly over a farm and take pictures and videos that spotlight irrigation problems, insect infestations or other potential threats to crops. The technology can help farmers make decisions about what to plant and when, how to irrigate more effectively, how to deploy fertilizers and supplements, and when to harvest.
- AI can do the busy work for you
AI can handle time-consuming, monotonous, mundane tasks, freeing us to use skills that machines don’t have like creativity, ingenuity and problem-solving. Although some jobs have and will change because of new technologies, AI will create new jobs, too. It will also enhance a lot of the work we currently do by helping make some jobs safer, easier or more productive.
Combining the best of human skill with the best of automation can enable us to be more efficient, creative and productive — and even healthier. To learn more about how AI can create opportunity for everyone and improve all of our lives, check out Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Kevin Scott’s new book, “Reprogramming the American Dream” (https://news.microsoft.com/reprogramming-the-american-dream/).