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How AI and Mankind Can Coexist

This article was based on the TED2018 Talk, “How AI Can Save Our Humanity,” by Kai-Fu Lee:


The New Age of Deep Learning

Deep learning is a technology that can take a huge amount of data within a single domain and learn to predict or decide at superhuman accuracy. For example, if we show the deep learning network a massive number of food photos, it can recognize food such as a hot dog or no hot dog. In a more practical application, we could show it pictures, videos, and sensor data from driving on the highway, and it can learn to drive a car on the highway as well as a human being.


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Deep learning has become an integral part of the era of AI discovery which was led by the US. Now that we’re in the era of implementation, what really matters is execution, product quality, speed, and data. This is where China comes in. Chinese entrepreneurs have an incredible work ethic, and Chinese product quality has consistently improved in the past decade because of a fiercely competitive environment.


AI in Chinese Market

In the Chinese environment, entrepreneurs learn to grow very rapidly. They learn to make their products better at lightning speed, and they learn to hone their business models until they’re impregnable. As a result, great Chinese products like WeChat and Weibo are arguably better than the equivalent American products from Facebook and Twitter.

The Chinese market embraces accelerated change and paradigm shifts. As an example, if you go to China, you will see that it is almost cashless and credit card-less because mobile payment has become a reality in China. In the last year, 18.8 trillion US dollars were transacted through mobile internet, and that is because of very robust technologies built behind it. It’s even bigger than the China GDP. This is because it includes all transactions: wholesale channels, retail, online, offline, going into a shopping mall or going into a farmers’ market, et cetera. The technology is used by 700 million people to pay each other, not just merchants, so it’s peer to peer, and it’s almost transaction-fee-free. It’s instantaneous, and it’s used everywhere.


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The Chinese market is enormous, which helps give entrepreneurs more users, more revenue, and more investments, but most importantly, it gives the entrepreneurs a chance to collect a huge amount of data which becomes rocket fuel for the AI engine. As a result, the Chinese AI companies have leaped ahead so that today, the most valuable companies in computer vision, speech recognition, speech synthesis, machine translation, and drones are all Chinese companies.


The Implementation of AI

With the US leading the era of discovery and China leading the era of implementation, we are now in an amazing age where the dual engine of the two superpowers are working together to drive the fastest revolution in technology that humans have ever seen. This will bring unprecedented wealth: 16 trillion dollars, according to PwC, in terms of added GDP to the worldwide GDP by 2030. It will also bring immense challenges in terms of potential job replacements.

What is more serious than the loss of jobs, however, is the loss of meaning, because the work ethic in the Industrial Age has brainwashed us into thinking that work is the reason we exist; work defined the meaning of our lives.

AI gives us a chance to redefine our lives. Although AI is taking away many routine jobs, routine jobs are not what we’re about. The reason we exist is love. Humans are uniquely able to give and receive love, and that’s what differentiates us from AI.


Differentiating Humans and AI

How do we differentiate ourselves as humans in the age of AI? The axis of creativity is one possibility, but there is also the axis of compassion, love, and empathy. These are things that AI cannot do.


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As AI takes away the routine jobs, we should, and we must create jobs of compassion. You might ask how many of those there are, but consider that we will need social workers to help us make this transition.  We will need compassionate caregivers to give more medical care to more people. We will need more teachers to help our children find their way to survive and thrive in this brave new world. With all of the newfound wealth, we can make labours of love into careers and let elderly accompaniment or homeschooling become careers also.


The Blueprint for Coexistence

AI may take away the routine jobs, and in due time, we will be thankful. AI will provide great tools for the creatives so that scientists, artists, musicians, and writers can be even more creative. AI will work with humans as analytical tools that humans can wrap their warmth around for high-compassion jobs. We will be able to differentiate ourselves with the uniquely capable jobs that are both compassionate and creative by using and leveraging our irreplaceable brains and hearts.


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This is the blueprint for the coexistence of humans and AI. AI is serendipity. It is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human. Let us choose to embrace AI and to love one another.


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