The arise are still the same. Will machines

The PrologueIn the 21st century, we have seen some of the most groundbreaking technologies making their way into our drawing rooms.

They have not only made our lives easier but have also made this world a smaller place. However, the kinds of advancement we have been observing in the past couple of years are believed to bring about a kind of evolution that has never been witnessed before. But these developments have also brought us back to some of the most fundamental questions about the relationship between a man and a machine that had plagued the human mind 255 years ago. Man versus machine is a topic that has been in debate since the time of industrial revolution which began in the 18th century in Great Britain and then spread to different parts of the world. However, this discussion has again gathered momentum in the recent years with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This new technology has brought with it a new level of sophistication in doing things but, the questions that arise are still the same. Will machines take away our jobs? Would it render human intelligence inefficacious? Do they pose a threat to humanity?The birth of AIThe idea of making machines that are indistinguishable from and superior to humans was first conceptualized by Alan Turing in 1950 in his paper titled ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’.

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It paved the way for what we now call Artificial Intelligence. The term was coined years later, in 1955 (1), by John McCarthy, a computer scientist by profession and one of the founding fathers of AI. He developed one of the oldest programming languages, LISP, which is extensively used for programming AI-based softwares. McCarthy is also widely recognized for his contributions to the development of human-level AI and commonsense reasoning. So, one might ask, what exactly is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? In simple terms, AI is that division of computer science which focuses on the development of machine functions which are similar to human cognitive functions such as planning, learning, knowledge acquisition, speech and facial recognition etc. The knowledge engineering and the machine learning algorithms deployed are such that these digital agents are able to perceive, reason, learn, acquire knowledge and manipulate objects just as humans.

Within the last few years, machine learning (ML), one of the core aspects of AI, has spread its wings far and wide. Such an ability, to learn without any human intervention, has become a tool to achieve effectiveness and efficiency in almost every industry (2). The capabilities of machine learning systems range from extracting structured information from unstructured data to detecting financial frauds and diagnosing diseases, making them employable across the length and breadth of the economy.AI and the worldArtificial intelligence is poised to disrupt any and every market it enters. The early adopters have seen real benefits of adoption of this technology which has made it even more urgent for others to accelerate their digital transformation.

According to a recent research paper published by McKinney Global Institute, “Artificial Intelligence, The Next Digital Frontier?” the investment in AI is at its all-time high with giants spending $20 billion to $30 billion in R&D, deployment, and acquisitions. However, high-level adoption of this technology remains low due to concerns over return on investment and uncertainties on what AI could do for the business, how could it be obtained, integrated and assessed. At the moment, high-level adoption of AI is restricted to the telecom, automotive, assembly and financial services industries which share several common criteria. They have the digital maturity, large businesses, integrated technologies, AI centric core activities, focus on growth over savings and C-level support for AI. Other industries such as retail, media, CPG markets, tourism and healthcare are adopting AI at a comparatively lower level (3).  AI and IndiaAmidst the entire frenzy surrounding AI world over, its adoption in India is still in the nascent stages. The number of AI companies in India is very small as compared to the other countries in the world.

India accounts for only about 8% of AI companies globally with 80% of these companies having employees less than 50 (4). The industry stalwarts in India have realized the latent potential of AI and the disruptions it is capable of bringing along with it. They are readying themselves to ride the waves. Business bigwigs such as Ratan Tata (Chairman of Tata Sons), Bansal brothers (founders of Flipkart) and Anand Ladsariya (founder of Everest Flavours) are some of the names that have been heavily backing the AI start-ups in the country, thereby providing impetus to this technological transformation.

AI in the healthcare sector In my opinion, for a country like India with its exploding population and burgeoning pressure on limited medical resources, adoption of AI will play a crucial role in the healthcare sector (which I aspire to serve). The ratio of doctor to patients in India is 1:1700, far higher than 1:1000 recommended by WHO (5). One of the major reasons for this gap is the lack of funds which strains investment in infrastructure, supply of medical equipment, consumables, number of hospitals, and retaining of qualified staff. It would be overly optimistic for one to expect an overnight metamorphosis. In such a scenario, it is the technology that can help enhance the productivity of the existing number of experts without compromising the precision of the diagnosis or increasing the costs. A quicker diagnosis, improving capacity utilization of hospitals along with optimizing ordinary business tasks and enabling insurers to devise ways to encourage preventive care are some of the ways in which AI is expected to bring about a transformation in the healthcare sector. An enormous opportunity lies in processing the huge amounts of patient data and drawing inferences from the patterns observed to make a diagnosis, forecast spread of diseases and customizing a healthcare plan exclusively for the patient. Routine tasks such as patient interactions, scheduling of appointments, registering the patient at the time of arrival etc can be quickly automated by employing AI solutions.

It brings down the cycle time and the cost of processing each patient substantially without any regulatory approvals (3). However, the use of AI for making a complete diagnosis is likely to take more time. While machine learning has been able to diagnose diseases with the help of data, its adoption in making a completely automated diagnosis is being prolonged due to concerns about patients being open to it and integration of data from multiple sources with adherence to strict regulatory frameworks.

But that does not limit the scope of implementing AI in the healthcare sector. Artificial intelligence in the pharmaceutical segment of the healthcare industry has moved from a mere concept to reality. Companies have started using AI to pour through large amounts of data and speed up and improve the process of drug discovery (6). In December 2016 at Forbes Healthcare Summit, IBM, and the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer announced their collaboration to expedite drug discovery in ‘immuno-oncology’ using Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence system. Immunotherapy is an approach which uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer, unlike chemotherapy that destroys cancer cells. In contrast to a human’s capability of being able to read a few hundred research papers over a couple of months, Watson has the capacity to analyze massive volumes of disparate data from more than 30 millions sources of laboratory and data reports as well as medical literature combined with Pfizer’s own proprietary research information (7).  AI in medical marketing and salesBesides drug discovery, artificial intelligence and machine learning will also have a major impact on medical marketing and sales, which I aspire to function in. Due to changing regulations, economic conditions and newer healthcare models, physicians are pressurized to see more and more patients leaving less time for them to know about potentially lifesaving drugs from the medicals reps.

In such a scenario, it has become necessary that these sales reps are armed with highly relevant content to deliver an impactful message thereby driving the top line of the organization they serve. Over the past few years, we have seen that artificial intelligence and machine learning have emerged to aid these efforts. From improving productivity to increasing win rates, and enhancing customer satisfaction, these new technologies have had a potentially large impact on the pharmaceutical companies. AI-based solutions help in optimizing pre-call planning by recommending content that would have the maximum impact on the client thereby reducing the time taken by a rep on gathering and organizing data. Further, the technology helps in reducing administrative tasks by automating routine work such as manually logging calls, updating paperwork and emailing reprints to physicians. It leaves more time for the sales reps to be in the field, take on more customer calls and build relations. AI also acts as a mentor and trainer to the sales reps by always being by their side.

AI-based solutions measure the outcome of every action based on its success and failure thereby recommending to its sales reps the best course of action. In this area of work where time is of the essence, AI-based solutions not only act as a virtual mentor but also help align the marketing and sales efforts by providing useful insights from the experts within and outside the organization (8).Are they our friends or foe?With AI, one might think the possibilities are limitless and often wonder if the likes of Sophia (a humanoid robot) are coming to get their jobs. It is important to understand that the real question here is not of competition, but of integration. Men and machines are not competing with each other. Rather, they both are on the same side.

The objective is to integrate the capabilities of both human and artificial intelligence for the benefit of all. The organizations and the individuals have to augment themselves in this fast-paced environment to take these technological advancements as opportunities and turn them into strengths rather than viewing it as a potential threat to their livelihood. Machines are designed to eliminate tasks, not jobs. In order for us to prepare ourselves for AI-driven organizations, it is necessary that we upskill our core human competencies such as creativity, education, people management skills and effective use of data. With new products, technologies and processes emerging every day, employees would have to become more creative in order to extract the maximum benefits out of it. Further, in order to fully understand the changes taking place, it has become important to educate and re-educate oneself.

People management would become more important than ever in these times of uncertainties where the popular belief is that machines would replace humans. The manager needs to educate and demonstrate that robots are merely assistants taking away routine and manual work so that humans could focus on their core competencies.Essentially, it is important to note that, machines are designed to answer questions, not pose them. Hence, the biggest opportunities in this age of machines powered by superhuman intelligence lie in posing new questions and solving new problems. The business world is seeing radical changes brought about by technological progress. It would be safe to say that this wave of machine age would leave behind a legacy of a new generation of leaders.

The ones that are able to look beyond the existing set of affairs and are able to envision creative approaches to take the upcoming challenges in their stride. This era demands leaders that are nimble and adaptive. If they fail to keep up with these demands, soon they’ll be replaced not by machines, but by the leaders who could keep up.



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